The accompanist lets her fragile fingers dance across the black and white strips on the grand piano centered on stage. The chords of notes shift strategically and artistically, but even more impressive is the soothing, breathtaking tone of senior Lilly Ferris’s voice. As she hangs on to the final note of her solo piece, “Loveliest of Trees,” her satisfaction with the piece causes a smile to stretch across her face. After she bows respectfully and professionally towards the audience, she can not help but laugh to herself when she sees the other students on stage who have already performed mouth the words, “Good job” to her, completely contrasting the terror and anxiety evident in the students that have yet to go.
“You can never be 100% positive on how it will go,” said Ferris. “Once you’ve bowed, you’re just sitting there thinking about your performance.”
Last night, students from each choir put on a recital showcasing their performances for the statewide Solo-Ensemble Contest scheduled for March 7.
Solo-Ensemble is a musical competition for all music students in Illinois. The best performers score one point for being in first place, two points for second, three for third, and so on. The award and ranking is a significant, prestigious accomplishment, especially for those thinking of continuing their musical careers.
“The awards really impress college admissions counselors,” said teacher Nancy Cross. “It shows that the student is fully committed, prepared, and hard-working towards their music. It is definitely not an easy thing to accomplish at all and is a pretty big deal.”
Performances last night included singing solos, duets, ensembles, and even piano solos. Students were given the opportunity in early November to select their own song and if they would like to perform alone or with others. Each student’s entries are unique from others. There are some with only one solo and some, like Ferris, who have three performances for the competition.
“I performed a barbershop song, ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ with seniors Haley Richert and Sam Byrne, and sophomore Alexa Bennet,” said Ferris. “The second one was a duet with Spencer Bingham titled ‘Spring Wind.’ The last one was a solo named ‘Loveliest of Trees.’”
According to Cross, the purpose of the recital was to prevent students from waiting until the last minute at the concert to work on their pieces. The recital prepared the students by giving an accurate representation of how the procedure of the competition will go.
“Now that they’ve got all the jitters out, they can perform the best they can for the contest,” said Cross. “It’s better that they make mistakes now and see what they can do to perfect their pieces sooner rather than later. According to student feedback, it helps a lot with not only preparation of songs, but also the nerves of performing alone in front of an audience.”