Poteau High School choir preparing for May performance at Carnegie Hall; 2 benefit shows planned this weekend
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Poteau High School choir preparing for May performance at Carnegie Hall
Two benefit concerts are planning this weekend to raise money for the New York trek.
Every four years, Poteau High School choir director Bill King relishes giving his students the once-in-a-lifetime experience of performing in one of the world’s most famous concert venues.
In May, King’s students will travel to New York to perform a Memorial Day concert at Carnegie Hall.
“They get to see another part of the world. You know, a lot of them have grown up here in southeastern Oklahoma and haven’t traveled very much. Just the opportunity to sing on the stage of Carnegie Hall, which is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world, there’s just a cultural aspect of it all. And being able to see New York City and things they see on TV and movies, they get to actually experience it themselves,” said King, who has been the school’s choir director for 32 years.
“I enjoy watching the kids as we pull into New York. Their eyes get real big, and it’s fun for me. You know, it’s a lot of work, but it’s fun … for the kids to see something different than Poteau, Oklahoma.”
On May 28, the students will sing John Rutter’s “Requiem,” with the prolific British composer conducting. The New England Symphonic Ensemble will accompany the choir during the Carnegie Hall concert.
The choir has been making the trek to New York City every four years since accepting an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall in 1996. Each trip involves two or three years of fundraising, since the costs of travel, accommodations, paying the conductor and ensemble and other expenses total about $70,000.
“The community has been very generous. They’ve always been very supportive of the arts and the choir program here,” King said. “We’re very active and very visible … and we have a fine tradition here of the Poteau High School choir.”
The choir has raised about $61,000 through spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, Christmas caroling and other efforts. The final fundraising push is on, King said, since the goal is to have all the funds together by March 15.
Two benefit concerts are planned this weekend to help pay for the trip. At 2 p.m. Sunday, the choir will perform at Poteau’s First United Methodist Church, 109 S Harper.
Also, Poteau country-rockers Hillbilly Vegas are organizing a show at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Coffee Cup, 401 N Broadway. The high school jazz choir will headline the show, while Christian rock band Chaotic Resemblance will share the bill. Acoustic group Dusty, Brence & Dunn, which includes Poteau Middle School Assistant Principal Marshall Brence, also will perform.
It is the second year for Hillbilly Vegas to plan a fundraising concert for the choir. The show raised about $1,000 last year, a total the band hopes to top this weekend.
“Bill just does a really great job; he puts in a lot of hard work above and beyond. … His greatness goes unnoticed sometimes,” said Hillbilly Vegas frontman Steve Harris, who is an alternative education teacher for the district. “We love him and just want to do all we can to help.”
The band has close ties with the program: Hillbilly Vegas guitarist John Reed was among the first group from Poteau to make the trek to Carnegie Hall back in 1996, while Harris’ 15-year-old son Cameron will take the trip this spring.
“They get to stay at the Grand Hyatt there by Grand Central Station, they go to a Broadway show, they go on a dinner cruise after the show at Carnegie Hall. I mean, it’s just really something special,” Harris said. “A lot of kids in this area, they’ll never to go anywhere like that. And so this is something that’s really amazing that someone from Poteau, Oklahoma, has been arranging all these years.”
For more information or to donate, call King at (918) 649-4872 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.