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Sing, my angel of music

Members of the mens’ ensemble rehearse during a Wednesday morning practice.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Members of the mens’ ensemble rehearse during a Wednesday morning practice.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

A record number of NKHS choir students qualify for state.

When North Kitsap High School choir director Sylvia Cauter plays the piano, her students’ heavenly voices rise and unite in perfect rhythm.

Chills ensue as the beautifully haunting “Oohhs” and “Aahhhs,” sung with unfaltering harmony, build in volume and fill the choir room.

The angelic-voiced students practice year round, and with private voice instructors to reach near-vocal perfection.

And this year, the students’ efforts paid off, as a record number of vocalists, including the men’s and women’s ensembles, qualified for the state tournament at Central Washington University this Friday and Saturday.

“This is huge for this school to have that many kids representing us at state,” Cauter said. “I’m overjoyed. I’m thrilled. A lot of these kids have never made it to state and now it’s finally come true and they can end high school knowing they put in all the extra work.”

The journey began back in September. By the beginning of February, the vocalists were ready to perform at the state-qualifying regional tournament at Olympic High School in Bremerton on Feb. 9.

To make the final cut for state, the vocalists had to be the best in their singing style and receive a Washington Music Educators Association ranking of superior at regionals. A superior ranking is “A performance of the highest caliber; distinctive in every respect.”

Their singing brought the house down.

“My girls took all of the solo categories and that’s never happened before,” Cauter said. “They were No. 1 out of approximately 140 sopranos.”

Throughout the day on Feb. 9 the choir students waited on pins and needles for the list of top-placing singers to be presented.

Once the list was hung and North Kitsap names were at the top, hugs, tears and exclamations of joy were shared.

Sarah Stephen qualified as a soprano, Amanda Guay and Claire Hoffman qualified as mezzo sopranos, Megan Leibold qualified for piano and as a soprano and Courtney Fraser is going as an alto.

“It’s always a feeling of exhilaration to know you worked really hard and to be rewarded is exciting,” said Hoffman who’s going to state for the third time. “For me the most exciting thing was seeing that my friends were also going.”

One of the friends Hoffman spoke of is Fraser.

Fraser is going to state for the first time as a senior. She said the alto-soloist’s name was the last one to be posted. As the name was being written down, she saw the C, followed by an o, and next came the u, and that was enough of a name to begin the celebrations.

“My friends immediately swarmed in and I was surrounded in this group hug,” Fraser said. “It was so surprising. It feels really cool to go to state with these girl’s I’ve been singing with for so long.”

Although the solo-vocalists have been preparing all year, they’ve dedicated the last two months to mastering two pieces of music for the state competition. One piece must be sung in a foreign language and the other in English.

“They have to be able to sell their product. They’re an actor,” Cauter said. “It is highly competitive.”

Hoffman will sing “Ch’io mai vi possa” by Handel and “Must the Winter Come so Soon,” by Samuel Barber.

Hoffman said she works on her songs for four months before she performs them and she only focuses on two pieces a year.

“Learning the notes and rhythm isn’t too hard,” she said. “The hardest part would be making it your own — the expressions, phrasing and performance.”

Fraser will sing “Va l’error mio palesa” by Mozart and “Sea Wreck” by Marty Willson-Piper.

Fraser learns her songs by humming them and then she plays the melody on her keyboard until she’s got it down.

“I’m mostly just focused on not messing up, I want to get everything right,” she said. “I’m kind of a perfectionist.”

The men’s ensemble will sing “The Awakening,” by Joseph M. Martin and the women’s ensemble will sing “Tota pulchra es,” by Latin Maurice Durufle.

“Their work effort is excellent,” Cauter said. “They are an extremely gifted group of musicians.”

The state-qualifying women’s choir students are Margaret Asher, Kylie Booher, Samantha Capell, Alva Davalos, Courtney Fraser, Sarah Gray, Amanda Guay, Claire Hoffman, Megan Leibold, Lori Schiavone and Sarah Stephens.

State-qualifying men’s choir students are Nathan Clark, Matthew Forbes, Eric Frie, Jordan Gilman, Hank Hayden, Thomas Massey and Jonathan Pruiett.

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