// Acalanes’ Women’s Ensemble and Bella Voce choirs, along with Campolindo’s and Miramonte’s choirs, performed at the Women’s Fall Choral Classic (FCC) on Oct. 11 at the Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church. The concert spanned from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The students in Women’s Ensemble have been working together since the start of the school year to perfect their performance.
“We practiced a lot during class, and even had to work on lyrics outside of class too,” sophomore Katie Bettencourt said.
Junior Monica Wang, a member of Bella Voce and a student in the advanced choir, commented that her group started practice as early as the beginning of summer.
“Because I [am] in the advanced choirs Bella Voce and Chamber Singers, I had some preseason practices too, but it was only four more hours [than Women’s Ensemble],” Wang said.
Wang described FCC as a great experience and a way to meet students in different choirs who share similar interests.
“It was really fun, and it was really nice to meet new people from different schools. Also, some of the songs I heard from other groups were super cool,” Wang said.
Junior Nicole Wan, who is also in Bella Voce, enjoyed working with the other schools’ choirs over their collaborative pieces.
“I met many girls from other choirs. We bonded over the parts in our songs that we both had trouble with. And by the end of the day, I’d gotten to know my own choir better too,” Wan said.
Although, not all singers shared the same opinion. The students got to practice all day before the concert, with the rehearsal spanned the length of a full school day.
“It was long, it was a bit boring. I got some of my drivers ed stuff done until they caught me with my phone and then they took that away,” sophomore Olivia Parnell said.
The choirs rehearsed with a guest conductor and Director of Vocal Music at St. Francis Catholic Girls High School in Sacramento Tina Harris. Harris has a B.A. in Vocal Performance and an M.A. in Choral Conducting from Sacramento State.
Acalanes choir teacher Bruce Lengacher admired how Harris taught the choirs.
“I felt our clinician was really good, and we found out right before at our last rehearsal that this is the first time she had ever done anything like this,” Lengacher said. “This is the first year where the majority of the kids in both said they liked the guest conductors.”
Wang found it easier to connect to Harris’ techniques than Lengacher’s.
“I thought that she was easier to relate to because she was a girl and had a similar voice to me in comparison to Bruce. So, when she was teaching us techniques it was easier to understand what she was asking from us.”
Bettencourt enjoyed Harris’ teaching due to her personality.
“She was so, so nice. Whenever a choir messed up, she helped them through it and didn’t make them feel singled out. She had such a positive energy,” Bettencourt said.
Along with Acalanes, Campolindo’s Women’s Ensemble and Bel Canto performed as well. Acalanes students were entertained by their music choices.
“I really enjoyed Campo’s song, Love Is A Rain of Diamonds,” Wang said.
Bettencourt had the same opinion as Wang.
“The other schools’ choirs were outstanding, and I was surprised by how many people they had,” Bettencourt said.
Wan credited Campolindo and Miramonte’s bigger attendance as a plus but still maintained that Acalanes has an advantage with a smaller group dynamic.
“Miramonte and Campolindo’s choirs were considerably larger than ours. Naturally, we all noticed a deeper depth to their sound that comes from more singers,” Wan said. “I personally felt that the size of our group enabled us to bond more and work as an ensemble. Since the beginning of the school year, we’ve all gotten to know each other at an astonishing rate. I think one of our greatest strengths is our connection to each other.”
Lengacher, on the other hand, appreciated Miramonte’s repertoire more.
“I loved Miramonte’s set. Didn’t like their last piece, but I liked the first two a lot,” Lengacher said.
Overall, Wang enjoyed FCC because it was a way to bond with other students without competing.
“The general vibe and goal of FCC is something really important to remember in the choir department that it is just competitions to see who’s the best, but the enjoyment of singing,” Wang said.
In the afternoon while the other choirs are rehearsing, it enforces what they’re doing well and also may point out what they’re not doing well.
Wan believes that she and her ensemble became closer after this concert.
“The next morning after FCC, all the girls were talking about the performance nonstop. Lengacher came in and he said something like: ‘Looking at you guys now, you sit so much closer together than you did at the beginning of the year,’” Wan said. “It was true. We were all clumped together in one mass. That’s what I will take from this experience.”
Lengacher also saw an improvement of camaraderie in all choirs.
“Women’s Ensemble got way close because they had to go outside and woodshed their piece, so it’s a completely different choir.”
Bella Voce’s next concert is Dec. 18, and Women’s Ensemble’s is on Dec. 20.