With the start of February only a few weeks away, the music department here at Plainwell High School is hard at work preparing for Festival. Officially titled Choral Festival, this competition is an opportunity for high school choirs around the state of Michigan to perform for a panel of judges and receive a formal rating and critique from professional musicians in their districts (composed of 1-13 counties depending on the population of each). The ratings range from I-IV, with I being the best rating available. This year’s festival is happening February 22-25 and will be hosted at one of the participating schools by MSVMA, the Michigan School Vocal Music Association.
For those who might not know, Plainwell High School has four different choirs: Bass Choir, Chamber Ensemble, Trebellaire, and Bel Canto. New this year, the Honors Choir is also going to compete at Festival. The choirs have been competing for at least the past eight years – as long as choir director Denise Beauchamp has worked at Plainwell.
After competing at the district level and scoring at least a I, choirs are invited to the state-level competition. In recent years the choirs have been incredibly successful, with all four going forward to the State Choral Festival.
“2019 was the first year ever that every single choir scored high enough to advance, but then COVID happened, so we never actually got to go to State and last year there wasn’t Festival at all because of COVID,” Beauchamp explained.
Anyone that has Festival experience knows that it’s a big deal. It offers opportunities to perform challenging music, grow as musicians, and prepare for the future. Festival is often regarded as the time of most musical growth of the year, with the unique pieces and more professional-level preparation.
“I feel like Festival helps us prepare for future concerts and gives us professional views and feedback to help us improve,” said senior Shayla Bright, co-president of the choirs. “We’ve always had fun, unique songs that are hard to learn at first but that’s the point of Festival, to challenge yourself to become better.”
It seems that most students have an understanding of this purpose of Festival, most likely instilled by their wonderful choir director.
“Festival gives high school musicians a chance to learn a different style of more advanced music and perform in a very high-stakes, formal setting,” said Beauchamp. “My goals are to make sure my choral students, a) learn and grow as singers and musicians, b) have a super positive and memorable experience they will take with them for years to come, and c) learn to value each one of their choir peers as individuals that contribute their own unique gifts to the good of the ensemble.”
Overall, Festival is an important upcoming event for the PHS choirs, and they could use all the love and support from fellow students in their upcoming competition.