ArtWeek Host Takeover: Golden Tones & Natick High School

Deborah Marion, director of the Golden Tones chorus, writes about a collaborative event that brought together her chorus of 70 seniors and the Natick High School Advanced Choir.

Members of the Natick High School Advanced Choir singing alongside the Golden Tones chorus.

As the director of Golden Tones chorus, I’d like to share the story of what happened when ArtWeek enabled the our group of 70 singing seniors from Boston’s MetroWest, to collaborate last spring with the Natick High School Advanced Choir, offering “Young or Old, Singing Lifts You, Heart and Soul,” a free, intergenerational and inspirational concert for our community.

First, meet the two choirs:

The NHS Advanced Choir, one of the school’s four academic choral ensembles, promotes as its core values: community, passion, discipline, and excellence. An auditioned choir of male and female singers, the Advanced Choir’s mission is to transform students’ lives and inspire their community. They achieve musical excellence by teaching music literacy, healthy vocal technique, ensemble skills, and the discipline of practice. They achieve positive youth development through mentorship, identity exploration, and the study of diverse human perspectives. They achieve community through joyful performances, friendship, and collaboration.

The Golden Tones chorus is a “kindred spirit” that shares these values. With an innovative combination of creative arts and community service, members are men and women of retirement age who sing and dance to lift spirits, have fun, and promote health and social engagement to benefit everyone involved. The mission of chorus is to practice and provide enriching entertainment for senior citizen facilities, schools, faith communities and public events. To fulfill this mission, the chorus delivers almost 50 lively concerts per year, many to disadvantaged and underserved audiences in the Greater Boston (mainly MetroWest) area. There are no auditions to join.

For the past two years, our two choirs have come together to share ideas and music, rehearse, and then perform after school in the high school auditorium. Our audience was naturally small for these afternoon shows, and for the students, the school’s stage was all too familiar. It was hard to generate enthusiasm about doing it again.

The event took place at the Common Street Spiritual Center.

Until ArtWeek gave us a chance to shake things up!

First, we needed a new venue. We approached the staff of the Common Street Spiritual Center, who loved the idea! It was a good fit with their mission of supporting the arts, and could help draw an audience for their Open Mic that evening. They also saw that the added boost of ArtWeek’s promotion would be beneficial.

Singers of both generations became excited about creating a truly PUBLIC concert as part of a regional arts festival promoted on social media! This buzz carried into our two joint rehearsals, where the students welcomed their older guests warmly. “It’s remarkable that our students requested MORE time together as a way to improve the program,” said NHS Choral Director Tyler Turner.

During the rehearsals, each choir had the chance to show off its best material. “I can’t get over how accomplished these young people are, and they still make us feel like we’re the stars,” said one Golden Tones member.

On the night of the concert, the weather forecast promised rain. We set out 200 chairs anyway, and held our pre-concert rehearsal. The rain held off, and then, just before concert time, it poured like CRAZY.

In galoshes and in trench coats, carrying umbrellas, families, friends, and music-lovers from the community came anyway, filling every seat in the beautiful sanctuary. The wonderful acoustics of the wood-paneled cathedral ceiling amplified the voices as the Golden Tones chorus graced the stage, and then the Natick High School Advanced Choir surrounded the audience for their set. For the grand finale, both choirs intermingled on the stairs in front of the stage, soaking up the audience’s cheers and applause as they sang the last note.

Performers and audience stayed around for some time after the concert to exchange greetings and kudos. The room felt alive with positive energy. A collection was taken up to thank Common Street Spiritual Center for providing the space; the result surprised everyone with more than they’ve seen at any recent event!

One audience member wrote to us later, saying, “The dimly lit sanctuary glowed radiantly from the energy projected from the faces and spirits of the universally young performers. It was a night to remember and savor for a capacity audience… Bravissimo!”

I like to say it this way: if you came for an hour of music, you left with much more!

Thank you, ArtWeek!

Are you an ArtWeek Event Host interested in sharing your story? Are you interested in being a part of ArtWeek next season (April 27 — May 6, 2018)? Email the team at artweek@bochcenter.org!