Concert Choir and Girls’ Ensemble Perform in NYC


Choral singing is the quintessence of music. While at a surface level a choir may just appear to be an organized group of singers, at a deeper level, a choir is a group of friends, all devoted to singing, who come together to create musical brilliance and magnificence. The Cherokee Concert Choir and Girls’ Ensemble discovered this alternate definition of “choir” when they performed at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City for composer Ola Gjeilo on January 21.

At 10:30 A.M. the morning of the 21, the sixty-four members of Cherokee’s Concert Choir and Girls’ Ensemble arrived at Cherokee High School to board a bus for New York City. The bus, as can be expected, was a typical yellow school bus. The unextraordinary nature of the school bus was analogous to the expectations many choir members had for the day. Yet, when the bus pulled up to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine after a 2 hour bus ride, most members began to understand the gravitas of the day which lay ahead. According to Girls’ Ensemble member Natasha Watts, “[The Cathedral] was one of the most extraordinary sights she had ever seen.” Choir member Sophia Fortuna remarked about how she “climbed a set of narrow stairs to a set of balconies far above the Cathedral floor and was taken aback by the beauty surrounding her.” The awe created by the Cathedral was a sentiment echoed by nearly all choir members and helped set the tone for the day.

In their winter concert on Thursday, December 14, the Cherokee Concert choir performed two songs by the composer Ola Gjeilo, “The Ground” and “Ubi Caritas.” Girls’ Ensemble performed one song, “Tundra” and was in the process of rehearsing a second, “Seasons.” The ultimate purpose of this trip was to perform the pieces for the composer himself and to receive constructive criticism. The trip was fully planned by choral director Mrs. Nicole Snodgrass. After a series of applause as Ola Gjeilo entered the space in which the choirs were performing, Cherokee’s Girls’ Ensemble began their first song. As stated by choir member Justin Thach, “The acoustics were so pristine that numerous people were moved to tears.” This happened as a result of all four songs performed by the choirs. AJ Olt, a senior in Concert Choir, stated that “We work so hard to sound good in acoustically unsatisfying Cherokee, that we sound amazing when placed in an acoustically amazing place such as the Cathedral.”

While composer Ola Gjeilo did offer advice on how to fix the various pieces performed by the choirs, his awe at the high level ability demonstrated by both choirs is what truly set the trip apart for many. Gjeilo even went so far as to ask, “Are you sure you guys are high school students?” Eventually, not only did Gjeilo record our Concert Choir singing “Ubi Caritas,” but he improvised an accompaniment to the piece, on a piano played by Duke Ellington. This was a dream come true for choir director Mrs. Nicole Snodgrass and served to further the flow of tears from those listening. The experience, while originally planned as a spectacular opportunity for development, became a lesson in discovery. Both of Cherokee’s choirs discovered the power of their music and the power of their voices when put together.