By Jenna Evaristo, Staff Writer
// Acalanes’ advanced women’s chamber ensemble, Bella Voce, traveled to the Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose to perform alongside some of the best choral groups California has to offer.
The talent ranged from intermediate school to college singers, who showcased a wide variety of music at the California All-State Music Education Conference (CASMEC) on Feb. 15. The concert displayed the group’s hard work and determination due to the difficulty of even being offered the chance to perform.
This year marks the first time Acalanes has been accepted to perform at CASMEC in 25 years, making it a significant experience for not only the young ladies but for choir director, Bruce Lengacher.
“I think this performance was special because it gave us a focus all year, we knew that we were going to do this from last July and since it’s noncompetitive, the goal was just to do our best work,” Lengacher said. “It’s truly an honor to be recognized and first of all just to be selected.”
Video Courtesy Melissa Dunphy
Lengacher found out in July of 2017 that Bella Voce was awarded the opportunity to perform at CASMEC and started preparing with the group as soon as school began.
“This was an incredibly important performance for us that we’ve been working.
Bella Voce sang a collection of six pieces over a 25 minute period. They started off with a Latin song by Mike Engelhardt called “O Antiqui Sancti,” then continued with “Set Me as a Seal” and “On my Dreams” by Jocelyn Hagen.
“‘O Antiqui Sancti’ was one of my favorites because though it was originally written in the Renaissance, it preached feminist values about the strength of women and what we are capable of,” sophomore and Bella Voce member Shannon Ohleyer said.
Following “On my Dreams” was their commissioned piece, “Wild Embers,” by Melissa Dunphy.
“When I do commissions, I can’t go on like YouTube and look at what somebody else did because nobody else has done it yet,” Lengacher said. “It’s like opening up a present that has many layers of wrapping paper on it; it’s discovery. It was a great experience.”
Many of the Bella Voce members especially connected to this piece due to their relationship with the writer, Melissa Dunphy, who contacted them frequently and was even able to attend CASMEC.
Their fifth piece was another Latin song called “Tota Pulchra Es” meaning “How Beautiful You Are.” For their finale, Bella Voce performed an arrangement of “Shenandoah” by a former Acalanes choir student, and according to Lengacher, the members of Bella Voce connected very much to the song.
“People think that we just learn songs, but we don’t. We talk about philosophy, how to connect with it emotionally, and discuss what the text is really saying. It kind of guides how we perform it,” Lengacher said. “I think at least five girls cried while they were performing it.”
Though CASMEC proved a success for Bella Voce, the group is looking forward to the Women’s Golden State Choral Competition in two weeks where they have placed four out of the past five years.