By: Wendy Gooditis
The Chamber Choir of Clarke County High School returned Sunday from their long-anticipated trip to New York City, where they were faithfully shepherded by their beloved director Dr. Ryan Keebaugh, a number of competent chaperones, band director Mark Curry, a serene and knowledgeable tour guide, and a prompt bus-driver, along with some parents and friends who had made the trip from Clarke County just to be near them. They sang at scheduled and unscheduled venues around the city for four days, delighting hundreds of surprised listeners along the way.
On Saturday afternoon, in the Registry Room on Ellis Island within view of Manhattan, the strains of “Danny Boy” soared across the vaulted ceiling and floated down to the ears of those below. The crowds of people marveling at the building might have thought there were spirits present, singing the classic song of the Irish immigrant. The voices were otherworldly indeed, but they came from the throats of the choir, out of sight on one of the high balconies.
Choir member Taelor Woldorf writes: “My favorite experience of the trip would have to be when we were singing at Ellis Island in the staircase. The sort of rundown appeal of the place’s appearance mixed with the ring of our voices made everything sound so beautiful that I had goosebumps almost the whole time. I felt that it brought us together in a bond that can never be broken.”
Sightseers at the World Trade Center Memorial on Sunday morning were moved to tears by the poignant rendition of “Good-bye,” a poem by Mark Twain set to music written and conducted by the choir’s director, Dr. Ryan Keebaugh . The members of the choir were deeply affected by the experience as well. Soprano Chloe Gooditis writes:
“Walking over, the usual chatter of the kids died down. We were silent as we listened to our tour guide’s description of what the memorial represented. After walking around, we met at the site of the first tower, where there is now a fountain, filling what had been the base of the tower. When we saw it, we were all struck by the size. It is gigantic, and all around the base are the names of those lost, either from having been inside the tower, or from rescue attempts. The magnitude and weight struck all of us, I am sure. Being there, and seeing all that had been done to remember, touched us all.
So we sang. By the end, most of us could not hold it together. After the last note, we all collapsed into each other’s arms. Feeling as though we have contributed to the remembrance of brave souls who were lost that day will always be an influential memory to the choir. We have always been a close group, but the memories that this stirring trip has left us will hold us together the rest of our lives.”
They sang a concert amidst the breathtaking architecture of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (recordings below). They and their director were praised to the skies during a master-class at New York University. They sang at Grand Central Station, of which experience alto Sydney Wilkins writes:
“My favorite moment was the first time we sang, the ‘flash mob’ singing of ‘Irish Blessing’ in the Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Station. It started with just a small group of us, but, as the other choir kids heard us, they came running from all corners. The crescendo and moment of the song were truly beautiful.”
They sang on the ferries, and in the restaurants. They stood at the base of the Statue of Liberty and sang the “Star-Spangled Banner,” much to that steadfast woman’s delight! The lighthearted moments were many, and the photos number in the thousands. The memories for these singers will warm their hearts for a lifetime.
The choir is very grateful to all those who helped them on their way to this adventure, in ways big and small. They send a special thank-you to these sponsors: Bluemont Services, LLC, Clarke County Rotary Club, Rappahannock Electric, Loudoun Pediatric Associates, Shenandoah Controls, Green Acres Lawn Care, REMAX Roots, Wings, LLC, Masters and Webb, Webb Business Center, Shenandoah Beauty Academy, Celtic Shipping, Champion Iron, Shockey Companies, Historic Rosemont, and Breze Power.
Choir video courtesy Jerry Boyles: