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Les Ms. basks in afterglow of performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City

Members of the Les Ms. choir from St. John’s, under the direction of Valerie Long, and a host of other choirs and musicians took to the stage at Carnegie Hall on Sunday.
Members of the Les Ms. choir from St. John’s, under the direction of Valerie Long, and a host of other choirs and musicians took to the stage at Carnegie Hall on Sunday. - Contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

You can take the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians off their native soil, but you can never take the traditions of the native sons and daughters out of the people.

This was evidenced on Sunday afternoon when a group of those women and men, all gathered for a performance of a lifetime for Les Ms. community choir, who participated in the Magnificat – Music for Women’s Voices on the Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY) concert series at Carnegie Hall in New York.

“We gathered in our dressing rooms and when the stage handlers came to get us with 10 minutes before our performance, we lined up in anticipation,’’ Les Ms. director Valerie Long said Monday.

“What we saw when we came out, we couldn’t have imagined. There in the crowds, despite the patrons being told otherwise, were a number of Newfoundland flags, waving them in support of us and cheering.’’

Long said that was emotional for everyone, and to take a deep breath and get ready for what came next was challenging, but a feat they were able to pull off.

She said the work each member of the choir put in over the past number of months to prepare for this event showed as they went to work. They were attentive, on point, on time and were able to overcome the “no tears” rule put in place by Dr. Nancy Menk, the overall director of the event.

“She mentioned to us later that the investment shown by our choir didn’t go unnoticed. Every time she looked up, our members were locked in, making eye contact and ready to perform,’’ Long said.

But to overcome that emotion and get ready to perform was a huge task for Les Ms., one the group was able to accomplish.

“I know this is so cliché, but getting to perform here was life-changing for all of us." — Valerie Long

She said right from the time they entered the building for rehearsal on Sunday morning, it was profound. Long said once they walked onstage, saw the size of the hall, it was emotional, to say the least.

“I know this is so cliché, but getting to perform here was life-changing for all of us,’’ Long said.

“It was a pinnacle experience for everyone in the choir.’’

Members of the Les Ms. community choir participated in the three-day residency of rehearsals and clinics, culminating with a performance at Carnegie Hall Sunday afternoon.

“It all started first thing in the morning. We all got ready to go to Carnegie and went outside, to find there was a half marathon going on right up 7th Avenue,’’ Long said.

“There was no way to cross, so we had to go down in the subway, cross there and come up the other side, just to get to Carnegie.’’

The residency of rehearsals and clinics came under the baton of Menk, culminating in a performance by massed choirs.

A limited number of ensembles were invited to the concert in recognition of International Women’s Day. It took place at the Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall.

Others who joined Les Ms. included Menk’s Women’s Choir from St. Mary’s University (Notre Dame, Indiana), Nazareth Academy (private high school, Philadelphia), Mountain Melody Women’s Chorus (California) and Capital Harmonia (Virginia).

"The frivolity, the fun, the joy and a host of other superlatives couldn’t describe this for us." — Long

Les Ms. was invited in recognition of its dedication to musical excellence, and due to the high quality of its musical achievement.

Les Ms. performed six songs, including “Always Keep This Close,” a song they perfected at home before heading to New York.

“We have four sets of mothers and daughters in this choir, so the power of the sisterhood shone through for us,’’ she said.

“During the second half of the show, we went up to the balcony and watched as the other groups performed. After it was over, there was a huge reception for all of us at Rosie O’Grady’s, a perfect setting for us on St. Patrick’s Day.’’

The group mingled, ate, had a few beverages and then Long had the idea to get everyone in the group together for a photo to commemorate the moment.

Then it dawned on her — or perhaps it was in her mind all along — that they couldn’t get everyone together and not perform, so they did “Jack Was Every Inch A Sailor” and capped off the impromptu performance with “Ode To Newfoundland.”

The crowd that travelled to New York for the concert included the nephew of member Maureen Corbett, who came up from Washington, D.C., to surprise his aunt. He didn’t have tickets for the show, but the organizers from DCINY found him a pair.

“The frivolity, the fun, the joy and a host of other superlatives couldn’t describe this for us,’’ she said.

“We all went our separate ways on Monday morning, some people coming home, others going on to family vacations, but the story of what happened here left with all of us.”


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