Fundraiser concert to be held in October
There is a famous joke involving a pedestrian on 57th Street in New York City who sees a musician exiting a cab. He asks the artist “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The musician’s response? “Practice, practice, practice.”
For as much as this joke has been told, there is truth to it. To play at a prestigious venue does often take practice. If practicing is indeed what it takes to get to Carnegie Hall, Benicia choral group VOENA would be shoo-ins. In fact, 17 of the group’s most seasoned singers will be performing at the historic NYC venue in 2018 as part of the Distinguished Concerts International New York City (DCINY) concert “The Music of Eric Whitacre.”
“Being invited to perform in Carnegie Hall is a wonderful honor and is a benchmark for our choir,” VOENA Director Annabelle Marie said in a statement.
VOENA— which stands for Voices of Eve ’N’ Angels—was founded in 1994 as a program to teach ethnically diverse music to children ages 5 to 18 and give them an appreciation of other languages and cultures while allowing them to grow as performers. Alumni have gone on to become recording artists, Cirque du Soleil performers and “American Idol” contestants. Their talents have taken them all over the globe from Italy to Japan to South Africa, and they have performed at the 2012 Summer Olympics, at the White House for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and even as the guests of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. In 2018, VOENA performers will grace the Carnegie Hall stage alongside other choir groups from throughout the world.
Among other things, the concert will be an opportunity to perform with Whitacre, a Grammy-winning composer and conductor who specializes in choral, orchestral and wind ensemble music. He has won numerous awards and contributed choral segments to the fourth installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise titled, “On Stranger Tides.”
Whitacre is also known for bringing together choirs from around the world, which he will be doing when he will be holding the baton at the 2018 DCINY concert as choral singers perform his work.
According to Michelle Fulbrook, a business manager for VOENA, the group submitted an audition performance to Whitacre and were selected to take part. When the news was broken to the students, they were very excited.
“They were jumping up and screaming, and they were all hoping that they were gonna be the ones that would be picked,” Fulbrook said.
Although there are more than 120 performers in the choir, Fulbrook said there were only 17 slots available. Marie chose from 17 students at the highest level, known as the CREAVO level.
“It was a big deal for the director to pick the most seasoned and well-performed children,” she said.
Fulbrook said that Whitacre wanted adult performers for the concert, but given the professionalism of VOENA’s artists, he was able to make an exception.
“He made a concession for VOENA, basically, and agreed to take the high school kids because they were so seasoned and have performed all over the world,” she said.
VOENA staff said it was an honor to be given the chance to perform with a musician like Whitacre.
“The opportunity to have our students work with Eric Whitacre and to perform in the world’s greatest concert hall represents outstanding musical achievement,” Marie said in a statement. “It is a thrilling opportunity for many of these children who have never even been to New York.”
The concert will be performed April 8, 2018 at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium. The singers will be in New York City for five days, taking in the culture of America’s most populous city and rehearsing in the afternoons. Fulbrook said that Carnegie Hall has not provided a setlist, but she speculates they may be performing an original piece by Whitacre.
However, Marie estimates the trip may cost $75,000 in travel, lodging and meals. Furthermore, Fulbrook said some members may not have a means of getting to New York. People are encouraged to donate at voena.org/Choir/Donate.html.
Additionally, there will be a benefit concert at the Napa Valley Opera House on Sunday, Oct. 15. There will be performances by Marie as well as Jeff Campitelli, VOENA’s rhythm director and drummer for Joe Satriani; internationally renowned acoustic guitarist and Benicia native Peppino D’Agostino; and Carlos Reyes, a Bay Area-based Paraguayan harpist and violinist who has performed with the likes of Steve Miller, the Doobie Brothers, Gloria Estefan and the Zac Brown Band. Doors will open at 2:30 p.m. with a wine and cheese reception and silent auction, with the concert starting at 4 p.m. Afterward, there will be a chance to meet the artists. The Opera House is located at 1030 Main St. Suite 150 in Napa. For tickets, go to ticketmaster.com/event/1C0052F4A868536A.
For more information on VOENA, go to voena.org.