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The William Kelley choir will be performing in the Boundary Waters Choral Festival, a mass choir of small schools, on March 7 at the Washington Auditorium, Ely Memorial High School. Photo by Michelle Ketola.

Silver Bay gears up for mass choir performance

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Two Harbors Minnesota 109 Waterfront Dr. 55616

The Silver Bay choir is gearing up for a marathon of performances in March, beginning with a performance with 100 other students.

This is the first year the students of the William Kelley choir will be participating in the Boundary Waters Choral Festival, a gathering of small schools from around the area that come together for an entire day of music.

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“They are getting very excited,” director Mary Carroll said.

Michael Rouse, a choir teacher at Ely Memorial High School, developed the idea for the gathering of schools five years ago. His wife Billie helps organize the festival.

“We were having such a hard time because each of the choirs was so tiny,” Billie Rouse said. “We want the kids to have these opportunities here that they get in big places.”

The festival began with just three schools, but has expanded to five. It’s one of the only opportunities for students at small schools to perform in a mass choir. Area colleges host honor choir experiences for high schoolers, but those have limits on attendance. Carroll said festivals at the University of Minnesota- Duluth and University of Wisconsin- Superior only allow her to take eight of her 18 students. This year she said she’s excited that all of her singers will get the large ensemble experience and a day of professional training.

“I hope it will be an eye-opening musical experience and that they will come back really fired up to see what can be done,” she said.

This year, the students will spend the day in workshops with Matthew Olson, a professor of choral studies at UWS, who has an impressive list of accomplishments to his name — songwriter, composer and arts administrator.

“I think it’s just the most amazing thing that all of my students will be able to go and work with a really fine choir director,” Carroll said.

They will also get to work with musicians who have managed to make music for a living – Monroe Crossing, a Minnesota bluegrass band, will be joining the performance. In addition to Silver Bay, the choirs from Eveleth-Gilbert, Mt. Iron-Buhl, Ely and Northeast Range will be at the festival.

The success of the festival has exceeded the Rouse’s expectations. Schools are excited to participate and the number of students keeps growing. They print t-shirts for all of the kids, but when they perform in the evening, each school is represented by its own vibrantly colored gown – maintaining a separate identity while making great music together.

“They all come in as five separate choirs in the morning,” Rouse said. “But no later than 10 a.m. they have begun to hone into one choir.”

During the March 7 concert, each choir will perform some of its own songs, followed by the mass choir. Then, Monroe Crossing will join the fold. The kids will have a long, busy day but Carroll said she’s confident the kids will love it. The festival kicks off a busy two weeks – they have their own concert on March 10 and perform at the Section 7 contest on March 18.

“They are working hard,” Carroll said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

If you go:

Boundary Waters Choral Festival at Washington Auditorium, Ely Memorial High School

March 7, 7 p.m.

$10 adults, $5 kids at the door

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