Connecticut Master Chorale
The White House
In their short 3-year history, the Connecticut Master Chorale hit an all-time high – a prestigious performance at the White House! The Chorale accepted an invitation to present two performances at the White House on Saturday, December 21st.
"In my wildest dreams, I would never have envisioned performing at the White House," said the Chorale’s founder and director Tina Johns Heidrich. "I was so shocked when I got the call back in November, and when I told the singers you had to peel them off the ceiling!"
The White House limited the chorus to only 25 of its 55 singers for security reasons. Since choosing from her already-hand-selected group of 55 would be impossible, Heidrich said everyone agreed to a lottery drawing to select the fortunate 25.
The Chorale performed two 50-minute sets in the Book Signers room and the Grand Foyer, where the President enters when he leaves his residence of the White House. Thousands of guests including workers for Air-Force and Marine-One, the Marine Corps and Secret Service and their families attended the concerts.
Although the Chorale did not get a chance to meet the President, Charlie Smith, a tenor and charter member of the group, looked up at one point and saw President and Mrs. Bush boarding the Marine-One helicopter. "It was a breathtaking awesome experience," said Smith.
Heidrich said when she looked at the singers, their eyes lit up. "It was so exciting just knowing the President and VIP’s were in the same building," she said.
Among the many selections the Chorale sang was "All Creatures of Our God and King." "I programmed this number for our Holiday Prelude Concert this past November - not knowing at the time that this year’s theme at the White House was ‘All Creatures Great and Small’" said Heidrich. "What a coincidence!" The group also sang Hanukkah and Cuban numbers, spirituals, a unique medley of carols and other Holiday selections.
The Chorale’s accompanist, Joseph Jacovino of Middlebury, had the opportunity to play the famous 1938 Steinway grand piano, which is featured on this year’s White House Christmas card. Former President Truman played this same piano for President Kennedy in 1961.
The Chorale was selected through a recorded audition after Public Relations Director, Nancy Lavers sent a letter to President Bush telling him all about the Chorale. " We are all extremely excited and honored to have achieved this accomplishment," said Lavers.
"Performing at the White House was overwhelming," said Debbie Warren-Brennan, also a charter member of the Chorale. "We expected everyone just to walk through," she said. " So many people stopped and listened and clapped. Many took our picture. We were very well received."
"It’s a nice notch on our belt," Heidrich said of the experience. "In fact, it’s the top notch!"
The Connecticut Master Chorale is a group of 55 highly select, auditioned singers who perform the great classics as well as more contemporary works. The Chorale was formed by Tina Johns Heidrich, Director and Conductor of the group, only three years ago in September 1999.
Since its inception, the Chorale has been quite active. In addition to their regular 3-concert season, they have performed many extra concerts, many by invitation. In December of 1999, they were invited singers at West Point Military Academy in New York. In May 2001, they entered the McDonald's Annual Gospelfest competition in Stamford, CT, for the first time, and they won! Following September 11, 2001, they held an Ecumenical Concert to benefit the families of the victims of that terrible day, and subsequently dedicated their Winter 2002 Concert to the victims of that tragedy.
On Easter Sunday 2002, they sang - by invitation - at Carnegie Hall in New York City under the direction of John Rutter, an internationally famous composer and conductor, who directed them in his own "Magnificat". The Chorale has been invited for a second appearance at Carnegie Hall in January. In May 2002, they entered the McDonald's Annual Gospelfest competition and again took first place in the adult choir category. Then on September 11th, 2002, they sang a Memorial Service of John Rutter’s " Requiem" at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown. They have also been the guest chorus for the Nutmeg Opera Company and the Ridgefield Symphony.
See the Story in the Danbury News Times
The Thank-You Note signed by First Lady Laura Bush