News-Times file photo
Members of the Danbury-based Connecticut Master Chorale
rehearse for a concert. On Wednesday, the group learned it
will perform a Christmas concert on Dec. 21 at the White
News-Times file photo
Tina Johns Heidrich, founder and director of the
Connecticut Master Chorale, leads a rehearsal.
DANBURY — Talk about ending the year on a high note.
Members of the Danbury-based Connecticut Master Chorale learned Wednesday that they
will be giving a concert at the White House just before Christmas.
"You had to peel them off the ceiling when I told them,” said Tina Johns Heidrich, the
chorale’s 48-year-old founder and director. "We still can’t believe it.”
Chorale member Lisa Cedergren, of the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, said she was "so
excited when I read the e-mail I couldn’t sleep — and I work as a sleep technologist at
The chorale, formed three years ago, has already performed at Carnegie Hall in New York
City and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
In May, the 55-member singing group entered the McDonald’s Annual Gospelfest
competition and again took first place in the adult choir category.
Now, 25 of them will be at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on Dec. 21 to present a program of
music in the famous East Room.
Heidrich said the guests are expected to include the family of President Bush, the
president’s friends, Cabinet members, White House staff members and other dignitaries.
"The White House has limited the chorus to only 25 for security reasons,” Heidrich
said. "Since I consider everyone in the group equally important, we’ve agreed that the 25
should be drawn in a lottery.”
Heidrich said the singers had been asked to do two 45-minute sets, one in the morning
and the other in the afternoon.
The program will include most of the music the chorale will be presenting in its annual
Holiday Prelude Concert at St. Mary’s Church in Bethel next month.
It was a compact disc recording of last year’s St. Mary’s concert that won the group a
chance to sing at the White House.
The chorale sent the CD to Washington after its public relations director, Nancy
Lavers, wrote to President Bush and told him about the chorale. The White House asked to
hear their work.
"We’re all extremely excited and honored to have achieved this accomplishment,” Lavers
Bethel resident Elizabeth Barnes, 42, a member of the chorale since its inception, is
"It’s just incredible,” said Barnes. "When I got an e-mail telling me about it, I had
to read it several times to make sure I’d read it right.”
Barnes said the idea of the lottery makes it even more exciting. "I’d love to get the
chance to go down to the White House and see the president and his family,” she said.
David Jurman, a 44-year-old member from Newtown, described the news as "awesome.”
"It’s amazing a group like this has done so much in such a short time,” said Jurman.
"I’m hoping I’ll be one of the lucky ones to go to Washington.”
Contact Brian Saxton
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