Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 4, 2013

CHINA GROVE — Members of the honors chorus at Jesse C. Carson High School will raise their voices and see the sights in the Big Apple this week.
About two dozen students left Wednesday evening on an overnight trip to New York City, and they will start the return journey home Saturday evening.
“It’s our senior year and our first trip,” said senior Jaelen Brown, who sings as both a bass and a tenor. He said he has been in the chorus all four years of high school. “We go to Carowinds competitions, but this will be our first big trip to go out of state and sing.”
Taylor McCulloh, a sophomore alto, agreed.
“I think it’s cool since we’re from such a small town, and we’re going to the big city,” McCulloh said. “I’ve been there once, and I’ve been dying to go back ever since.”
Carson High School is six years old, and this is chorus teacher Megan Wyatt’s fourth year there. Her first class of freshmen are now seniors, so she decided that now is the time for them to visit New York. Future groups might go to different destinations.
“It has taken me time to build an ensemble, with a group of kids I felt I could trust,” Wyatt said.
She said she organized the trip because she wanted to give the students the same kind of experience she had when she was in high school. Many of them have never been to New York, so this opportunity is very exciting for them.
That includes Millie Helle, a senior second soprano.
“Most kids don’t get to experience this,” Helle said. “My mom went to New York when she was in high school, so I really wanted to go.”
The honors chorus will perform at St. Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church on Broadway right before mass.
“It’s also called the ‘actor’s chapel,’ ” Wyatt said. “People that did Broadway, probably back in the ’30s and ’40s, didn’t want to go home afterward, so they would go to the church and sing and have one-man shows.”
That’s a performance students said they have been looking forward to for months.
“All these famous actors and singers performed at the same place we’ll be performing,” said Anthony Cataldo, a junior bass.
Cataldo said it’s his dream to one day perform in a Broadway theater show, so singing in a church on the same famous street will be a thrill.
During a recent chorus class, the students buzzed with excitement over the trip and the songs they would be singing.
“The first song we were doing, which is level five, we just don’t sound right singing it,” Helle said. “Then we chose ‘Stumble My Feet,’ which is a level six song.”
That means it’s harder, the students explained, but they love its fast rhythm and soaring harmonies.
“We’re working hard on every song,” Brown said. “We’re trying to sound like grown men and women when we go, instead of boys and girls.”
The students also will get the chance to see a Broadway performance of “Phantom of the Opera” and tour famous landmarks of New York City, including the Empire State Building, the Trump Tower, Radio City Music Hall and Ground Zero.
McCulloh said she’s looking forward to seeing the “little church that stood” — St. Paul’s Chapel — which now houses a tribute to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the firefighters who served that day.
“That’s really cool for me, because I’m actually a firefighter at Locke Volunteer Fire Department,” McCulloh said.
The four students interviewed all thanked Wyatt, saying she helped them raise enough funds to afford the $569 cost.
“If it wasn’t for her help, half of us wouldn’t be going,” Brown said.
She and the choral students have had some “stressful” times in class, they said, but she has been a great instructor. Her guidance has prepared them well for competitions and performances like this.
Cataldo, who also participates in a theatre group that meets at the same time, said Wyatt has allowed him to go back and forth between the two, and she works with him outside of class to make sure he keeps up.
“I couldn’t ask for a better teacher,” McCulloh said. “She’s done so much for us that words can’t express it.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.