GERMANTOWN - The stage will be set among the breathtaking beauty of Holy Hill. Hours of rehearsal will lead up to the special moment when music first breaks the silence.
But there will be a lot more behind the voices that come together on stage at this year’s Germantown High School annual spring concert than meets the ear.
This year the students will be joined by some of the area’s most passionate and experienced voices, in a collaboration with Chant Claire.
Founded in 2013, Chant Claire is a Milwaukee choir dedicated to bringing challenging, high-quality choral music to singers and audiences all over southeast Wisconsin. The group got its start in Eau Claire, but is now based in Milwaukee.
The group features the talents of almost 60 singers, including Germantown High School’s own Jonathan Brooks, as well as Lauren Schell from Kennedy Middle School.
A transformative experience
Their involvement with Chant Claire helped prompt the collaboration, which Brooks said has been a transformative experience for his students.
“Chant Claire is a very professional group, filled with accomplished musicians and music educators,” Brooks said. “It was informative for my students to see how they go about the business of learning a new piece of music. (They) watched them make and acknowledge mistakes, take great notes, and most of all, got to see the members of Chant Claire love making music together.”
The result will be two combined ensemble pieces at the spring concert, including one Chant Claire Director Ben Bendroske described as one of the most inspirational while simultaneously challenging compositions the group has taken on since it started.
“Dan Forrest’s Requiem for the Living is the most ambitious piece we have done as Chant Claire,” Bendroske said. “It captures what I would say is kind of the human experience in a really powerful and tragic, but hopeful way; to experience that in the really beautiful venues is going to be a very unique experience.”
The joint concert, which is at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 18, will feature performances by the high school and Chant Claire separately, as well as two pieces where both ensembles join together.
“It’s been really neat to give students the opportunity to make music with professional, well-educated musicians,” said Bendroske, a music teacher at Whitnall High School in Greenfield. “That is definitely an experience I would have loved to have had when I was a student, so I’m really glad we could be a part of this tradition for Germantown.”
The concert will conclude with Chant Claire joining the students in a rendition of Shenandoah.
Seeing everything come together is something Bendroske said he honestly can’t wait to be a part of in May.
“It’s really great to meet each other at the beginning of the process so when we come together at the end, it will definitely provide more depth to the experience to see everything all come together,” he said.
Ambitious, yet exciting
“This is definitely the biggest undertaking we’ve had yet as a choir,” added Tim Backes, Chant choir board president. “It’s been neat to see something that started as a group of friends who enjoy singing evolve into something like this where we’re not only growing but we have opportunities to get together with students who share our passion for music.”
Judy Wagner, whose granddaughter went to Hamilton High School and has worked with Bendroske in the past, said she can’t wait to see both the solo Chant Claire concert as well as the joint event with Germantown High School.
“It’s really unbelievable to see and hear Chant Claire perform, so I know (the joint concert) will be something really special,” Wagner said.
Preparing for the concert, as well as the performance itself are things Brooks said he hopes will stick with his students for years to come.
“I am most excited for my students to be able to perform at a wonderful venue like Holy Hill Basilica, bolstered by a choir of excellent professionals,” he said. “I am also excited to have them experience a new, modern, extended work like the Forrest Requiem. It is beautiful, challenging, exciting, and holds a very deep meaning for many of my students.”