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Hitting the big time: Hilton Head choirs to perform at Carnegie Hall

Hilton Head Island High School choral director Larry Mercer, right, searches for a song while his students go over their music Thursday afternoon during rehearsal at the high school. The school's Seahawk Ensemble and Out of the Blue choirs will perform April 24 at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Hilton Head Island High School choral director Larry Mercer, right, searches for a song while his students go over their music Thursday afternoon during rehearsal at the high school. The school's Seahawk Ensemble and Out of the Blue choirs will perform April 24 at Carnegie Hall in New York. Sarah Welliver/The Island Packet

A group of local high school students has been asked to perform at Carnegie Hall, an invitation that was music to their young ears.

The two performing choirs of Hilton Head Island High School -- the Seahawk Ensemble and Out of the Blue -- will hop on a bus and head to New York City on April 21. The 31 students will rehearse the next two days and perform April 24 in a mass choir directed by world-famous conductor and composer John Rutter, who's given dozens of performances at Carnegie Hall.

"We're counting down the days at school," choir director Larry Mercer said. "It's a huge deal for any musician to get to perform at Carnegie Hall. This will be something these kids will never, ever forget."

MidAmerica Productions is sponsoring the concert series at Carnegie Hall, which will feature 11 choirs from all over the country. MidAmerica Productions vice president and director of program development Sara Bong said Hilton Head Choral Society artistic director Tim Reynolds, who is a guest conductor with MidAmerica, recommended the two choirs for the series.

"It's a big deal for them," Bong said, adding that all ensembles who appear on the series have received a special invitation. She said all participants have either been recommended by a guest conductor, auditioned or were seen by a staff member at national choral festivals.

"We're really very excited to have the students from Hilton Head Island High School," Bong said. "We know they're very talented and have distinguished themselves in a number of competitive situations through the state. ... They've worked very hard to get to this point."

Bong said the students will perform two pieces as a mass choir, along with a resident orchestra and professional soloists. And Mercer, who will sing with his students, said the music they will present is difficult.

"And they've done a killer job," Mercer said.

Tenth-grader Keelin Sanz, a soprano with Out of the Blue, has been to New York City with her family, but she said this trip will be completely different. She'll be doing what she loves most -- performing.

"It's just going to be the biggest, best possible thing that could happen to us this year," she said.

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