SHELDON — It has been a year of uncertainty for the orchestral and choir programs at Sheldon High School, but both were able to end the year on a positive note.
Last spring, the Iowa High School Music Association Large Groups Festival was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. This school year, many competitions have been delayed or canceled.
However, one of the biggest festivals could have happened as the IHSMA Large Groups Festival for Area Schools was held on Friday May 7th at Spirit Lake High School. Groups and choirs perform in front of three judges at the festival.
The Sheldon High School Band and Choir each received Division I ratings from the three judges they performed for, resulting in an overall Division I rating for both programs.
The choir performed “Hush! Somebody’s Callin ‘My Name “, an arrangement by Brazeal W. Dennard,” Ubi Caritas “by Dale Sakamoto and” Bali di Sehu “, an arrangement by Rufo Odor.
The students had to sing masked during their performance, but still achieved the overall Division I score.
“The choir performed really well and sounded amazing both at the May concert and the large group,” said Sheldon High School Choir Director Brandon Lenderink. “The students took up the challenge of singing with masks again, which can really make a vocal performance difficult. But they remembered the details we had worked on and delivered a great performance.
“The judges had very positive things to say about our performance and they certainly noticed a lot of the little things that we had worked on to help take our performance to that next level.”
Sheldon High School group principal Cliff St. Clair said it was the musicians’ best performance out of the two selections.
“We performed Samuel Hazo’s ‘In Flight’ as the opening, which included fast rhythms and 30-second note sequences in the woods,” said St. Clair. “Our second selection,” Chorale and Shaker Dance “by John Zdechlik is a 10 minute performance piece that includes important parts for each section of the group.”
The IHSMA has given programs the choice of performing live or submitting recordings.
St. Clair and Lenderink wanted to perform live for the judges.
“I was really happy that we had the opportunity to play live,” said Lenderink. “I don’t think I finished asking the kids which option they liked best before I said they really wanted to go sing. High school musicians have lost so many opportunities due to COVID, so it was good to give them this one. “
The programs were also able to perform in front of an audience, which St. Clair said helped the group.
“Performing in front of three judges can be nerve-wracking, but it helped that we had a good number of relatives and loved ones in the audience,” said St. Clair. “Live performance is so much better than submitting a recording. “
With the event canceled last year, many of the band and choir had never performed at the big band festival before.
The group weren’t put off by this and even put on a good performance in their warm-up.
“I was particularly pleased with the way the group warmed up. The judges arrived before we even started and listened to us before we even expected them, ”said St. Clair. “They heard us repeat a lot of our problematic points before the performance. I was happy that they considered our performance to be worthy of their standards.
The Division I performances were the culmination of a difficult time for both programs, which began with the cancellation of last year’s Big Band Festival.
A year later, the resilience of the students has paid off.
“They have really overcome a lot this year. We lost the big group process last year, which to me is where students seem to be making the most progress as musicians, ”said Lenderink. “We have faced social distancing in the auditorium with many people quarantined earlier this year, masks and festivals and competitions being canceled.
“Despite all of that, they still gave an incredible performance that I would be proud of in any normal school year. It really is a testament to their resilience and desire to perform.