Choirs take sweepstakes at UIL

The choir program took five choirs to the UIL Region Two Competition and Evaluation on April 11-12. All five groups received “excellent” ratings in both the concert and sight reading portion.

“It terms of the evaluation itself, it does allow for comments so the students hear from other professionals in the field,” assistant choir director Nathan Ratliff said. “Sometimes they hear it from us and they don’t always process but when they hear it from someone else they go ‘Ohh okay’. It’s another chance to get outside feedback and to continue and promote the growth.”

The program took Concert Choir as a non-varsity mixed, Belle Chanson and A Capella Women as varsity trebles, A Capella men as a varsity tenor-bass and A Capella a varsity mixed.

“I think that’s the main thing: you get feedback from people that are not in the middle of preparing it,” choir director Rachel Forester said. “They may have done it before but that kind of feedback and then [we] continue to grow – it’s a slinky.”

Each choir had to prepare three selections, one being without musical accompaniment. There is a list of music sent out by the state that directors must choose at least two of their choir’s songs from. Then, each school decides what they are taking as Varsity and Non-Varsity.

“In a lot of the literature selection, we’re looking at the historical value, we sometimes look at cultural things, we look at language so I think it’s another stepping stone in the process,” Ratliff said. “[While] continuing to add challenges and diversify what we offer the students. Again, it’s just a snapshot of the process; it’s almost like we do a fall concert, we do a holiday concert, we do a UIL concert.”

While UIL is called both a competition and an evaluation, it is viewed more as the latter. UIL for choir consists of a warm-up, a concert showcasing its three selected songs and a sight reading. Both the concert and sight reading portions are observed by a panel of three judges.

“It’s not about the trophies,” Forester said. “I like trophies, they’re fine, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the experience and the growth. The more you do that process, I think it becomes easier to know what the expectations are.”

Each choir performed three songs, but being that A Cappella performed as varsity men’s, women’s and mixed, they performed six songs for a total of 15 songs across the entire choir program. It is common that a choir will perform a song in Latin, such as Laszlo Halmos’s

“Jubilate Deo” and Claudio Monteverdi’s “Cantate Domino.”

“[My favorite song was] Cloths of Heaven,” senior Ziba Ackbar said. “I didn’t like it at first and Mrs. Forester was so sure that I would fall in love with it and, as always, she was correct.”

On the accelerated block schedule, the choirs prepare pieces from February until April for UIL. On A-B block, it is common that choirs will perform a UIL song on both their fall and winter concerts, leaving time to learn their final song and polish everything it.

“As a senior, it’s relating back to all of the other four years and you’re learning from everything that was perfect in the previous years and everything that could’ve been better,” Ackbar said.  “And it’s a lot easier to really gauge your perfections and imperfections to find the perfect medium, like the middle ground to where you can do well and still have place for improvement for those younger than you.”