RPCS Semiquavers Singing Ensemble Performs as Featured Choir at Carnegie Hall
“Everywhere in the world, music enhances a hall, with one exception:
Carnegie Hall enhances the music.” Isaac Stern
In the Isaac Stern Auditorium, the Semiquavers, directed by Lisa Diver, 2006 and accompanied by Lower School Music teacher Rachel Gahan, performed three songs as the Featured Choir to an audience of nearly 3,000 people before they were joined on stage by more than 350 high school students from all across the country for the National Youth Choir concert directed by renowned female conductor Dr. Edith Copley.
“The opportunity to conduct the Semiquavers at Carnegie Hall has been a personal and professional goal of mine for many years,” says Lisa Diver, RPCS Semiquavers Director. “To have been selected as the featured choir was an incredible honor and achievement for our Semis. It was a once-in-a-lifetime concert and I could not be more grateful to have experienced it with this group of students. I am so appreciative of the many people who helped to make this opportunity possible.”
The behind-the-scenes preparation for this experience started over a year ago when Ms. Diver submitted an application for the Semiquavers to be considered for the National Youth Choir concert. Recognizing the talent of her ensemble of singers, Ms. Diver also decided to submit a separate application for consideration as the Featured Choir. With notice of their selection, the Semiquavers were faced with the challenge of preparing for this amazing opportunity.
“There is a famous saying,” says Ms. Diver, “’how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice’ and practice we did. The practice paid off in a magical moment on stage. I was truly struck by the poise, strength, and courage of each Semiquaver. There was a palpable energy on stage during our performance. The Semis were excited and ready to share a little part of themselves with the audience through song.”
For senior Semiquaver Caitlin Ellwanger, who was selected to perform as a soloist with the National Youth Choir, the experience was better than anything she could have ever imagined: “It was one of the best moments of my life – especially because I was able to share that moment with Ms. Diver and my fellow Semiquavers. And to have the opportunity to represent RPCS as one of the four selected soloists in the large choir truly meant a lot to me.”
As an all-girls singing ensemble, the Semiquavers’ reputation preceded them as they met other groups in the Choir. “Most of the people we met thought we were unique as an all-girls group,” says junior Semiquaver Emma Wang. “Many choirs need to blend male and female voices, but we’re just as strong – if not stronger – with our all-female group. It’s not a unique situation for us.”
Although the highlight was certainly their evening at Carnegie Hall, the Semiquavers made the most of their trip to trip to NYC – the first ever visit to the ‘Big Apple’ for junior Candy Yang! The experience included seeing two Broadway shows, going to the Top of the Rock, a tour of NBC Studios, as well as dinner with Head of School Caroline Blatti at John’s Pizzeria. Plus, an early morning visit to Rockefeller Plaza landed them an interview – led by junior Sophie Allen – on the Today show!
As Ms. Diver explains, the impact of the experience on these students will extend beyond their time in New York: “I will never forget the pure joy and emotion that burst from the students following our performance. But, the importance of this experience did not conclude with the final bow on stage at Carnegie Hall. I always love the rehearsals we have following the trips we take, as I see the girls directly apply the knowledge that they learned throughout the weekend within our own RPCS repertoire. These experiences bring us closer as an ensemble and I find that we come back as a stronger and even more unified group.”
This year’s concert at Carnegie Hall is added to an impressive list of locations the Semiquavers have visited to share their gift of song recently. Just over a year ago the Semis performed at a holiday reception at the White House. The group also performed the National Anthem before an Orioles game at Camden Yards last May, and they will be returning to do it again on May 30 of this year.
It is clear that the Semiquavers do not take for granted these amazing opportunities and the way in which Ms. Diver has helped them to prepare for these experiences.
“Once we got on stage [at Carnegie Hall], it was amazing to understand how our hard work had paid off,” shares junior Ajée Robinson. “There are just no words to explain that moment, and Ms. Diver made sure we were able to appreciate it. I’ve been working with Ms. Diver since 8th grade when she taught me all my songs for the Middle School Musical. And now she’s a valuable mentor to me as a Semiquaver. She has seen me grow and has helped me every step of the way.”
“You know there are certain aims, certain goals, certain desires that we long for many years earlier in our lives, and we don’t even think it will ever happen in the first place. But then time goes on, and then – what you’ve been dreaming of and hearing about – and all of a sudden, it comes to you. It is truly like you’ve gotten to the golden gates of Heaven. I think that’s the only way I can describe the feeling. It was like arriving! You’ve gotten there. Once you play Carnegie Hall in my opinion you have made it.” -Ray Charles, 1966.
Ray Charles made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1957. And over the next 37 years he performed there 31 more times, through 1994.