Goffstown High Hosts Music Festival

Students of GHS Performing Arts Prepare for “Large Group

Goffstown High Hosts Music Festival

Veronica Iredale, Staff Writer

A myriad of bright white spotlights are glaring down at them from the ceiling… the Goffstown Choral Ensemble is standing on the stage of the Heiber theater, at GHS. Josh Desrochers–their director– stands in front of them, hands poised and ready to conduct as the students open their folders containing all three pieces they are about to perform. Hearts start to beat a little faster as eyes roam the audience, searching for a familiar face to latch onto before their performance starts. The clearing of throats is the only sound that remains in the large room before the director’s hands spring to life and the music begins.

Large Group are two words that are familiar to every student musician and music teacher in the state of New Hampshire, however, at GHS, students had the honor of hosting it. So what exactly is Large Group? Large Group is an event where all participating schools’ music departments (band, orchestra, and chorus ensembles) gather to perform a selection of music–2-4 pieces selected by the director–in front of a panel of experienced adjudicators/judges on Saturday, March 10th. During the performance, the judges are hard at work critiquing the performers on about 5 components of their performance that vary based on what the ensemble is. They are ranked on a scale of one to four, four being excellent by any standard. After their performance concludes, the students are taken into a separate room to perform a sight-reading activity, which is when they are presented with a short piece with harmonies they have never seen before, and are given a 5-minute period to practice it without singing and/or playing the notes. They are then scored on their sight-reading performance and taken into a “clinic” with one of the adjudicators that witnessed their performance, and they give them tips and work with them to improve.

Senior Sarah Conley participates in Chorus and Orchestra, and performed in both groups on Saturday. “My last large group experience was so much fun. I got to host, sing, and play my violin with all my closest friends. I even got to conduct the sight-reading for choir, had a solo for my sight reading in orchestra, and got to announce for our choir,” she says on recounting her experience of her last large group in her high school career. Recently accepted into Gordon College’s prestigious music program, Sarah appreciates the values that hosting teaches the students at GHS. “Preparing was a long process that couldn’t have been done without teamwork”. Hosting this event was a huge undertaking, but the students of GHS’s Music Department are prepared to do it all again next year! “We all had to work together to learn our parts, and it also brought out some leadership skills in some people when we were stuck on a hard rhythm, or couldn’t find the right note. Hosting was super fun, almost everyone had their own role, whether it was being a runner, making sure everyone in on time to things, announcing, or selling food.”

There is also some pressure on the students, aside from the fact that hosting is such a big undertaking. “This event is an important part of our GHS Performing Arts’ reputation, because this event is different from our other music events. At other events we sing/play to have fun, however for large group we spend a lot of time practicing our songs at school, then perform for a grade in front of a large audience, as well as other music teachers. It teaches us how well we can perform our music, and shows us what we need to work on”. The ensembles of the music department here at GHS have been preparing for as long as two months in order to be ready for this event. Some of the pieces that the groups performed were very difficult and were advanced beyond what high school groups usually sing/play. For example, one of the songs the chorus sang was ranked at a level six difficulty level, while the chorus is a level four ensemble, which most high school groups are considered to be. “If the repertoire is too easy the judges will expect more out of us, and if the music is too hard we may not be as prepared as we could have been,” Sarah says. “I would rather have a harder song choice than an easier one because it not only sounds better but is challenges us to work hard.”

The 2018 Large Group festival was a huge success in the eyes of students and teachers, as hosting the event went smoothly for almost everyone involved. It brings the already close-knit groups of the music department even closer through teamwork and commitment to the department. “I will miss it, Large Group has always been such a fun time, and a great learning experience.”

Image source: http://nhmea.org/festivals/large-group/