Students Sing With Symphony

Rogers Adventist School Singing Scholars performed with the Walla Walla (Wash.) Symphony Orchestra in celebration of the orchestra's 100th anniversary. The orchestra commissioned composer Gwyneth Walker to write a composition for the children's choir and orchestra. Students were asked to provide the children's choir based on previous performances with the symphony.

Over the summer of 2007, Walker and Terry Koch, Rogers music teacher, corresponded and collaborated on music. Walker chose to use American hymns and gospel songs for the new work. The hymns chosen were "Shall We Gather at the River," "Let Us Break Bread Together," "Standing in the Need of Prayer," and "Twelve Gates." These songs were tied together under the title Voices in Song.

More than 158 students in grades three–six started learning the music when school began. They practiced in classroom music sessions, in large groups, and then in two evening dress rehearsals with the symphony. They performed twice on Friday, Nov. 16, 2007, for the Young People's Concert at Cordiner Hall on the Whitman College campus and again on Nov. 18 during the Walla Walla Symphony Family Concert.

One fifth- and sixth-grade class was asked for their comments after the program. Bekka said, "I felt really excited we were able to witness to such a large group." Shawn commented, "I felt pressured because I was singing for God in front of the public schools. I was glad to have the opportunity." Abby "loved being in front of everyone. I loved the music and I loved how much they appreciated us." Jason had this to say: "It was fun, and it was a good way to express our feelings about God."

Koch teaches classroom music, band and choir. He is also involved with music in the community including church choirs and the Walla Walla Choral Society. He had this to say. "How often does an elementary school have an opportunity to perform with a professional symphony orchestra? I am familiar with Walker's music so I knew it would be a wonderful experience. And it was a thrill for the students to actually meet the composer as Walker was present for the final rehearsals and the performances."

Yaacov Bergman, the symphony's conductor and music director, lives in New York and flies to Walla Walla for rehearsals. He is also the music director for the Portland, (Ore.) Chamber Orchestra.

March 01, 2008 / Upper Columbia Conference