Lawn Avenue School chorus sings on the State House stairs
“We’re really psyched,” said Gilda Bullard, the chorus director.
The children sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and other numbers as part of a showcase sponsored by the state Council on the Arts. Bullard said they had rehearsed about eight pieces, including “Winter Wonderland,” “Auld Lang Syne,” and one arrangement each to be sung in Latin and Hebrew.
“They did a great job at the State House,” said Bullard.
More than 3,500 youngsters from 66 schools participated in the showcase, which began Tuesday morning and will run through Dec. 21.
This is the first time the chorus is going to the event since Bullard took charge. The idea developed after the chorus lost their longstanding date at the Warwick Mall.
“It was a mix-up with the Warwick Mall,” Bullard said. The children had gone to the mall to sing for shoppers and passersby for several years, but this year, the mall stopped accepting groups larger than four or five students.
According to Madison Hodrick, 13, the students wondered, “What to do?”
“We had a lot of discussion about what our trip was going to be,” Madison said. Then one of the Lawn Avenue School teachers, Karyn Kauffman, suggested going to the State House.
“We were searching for other places, and when Mrs. Kauffman recommended the State House, we booked the last spot,” said Madison, the daughter of Diane and Christopher Hodrick.
Bullard said that Kauffman, the band director, has been going for quite a few years now. The jazz band will return for another State House concert on Dec. 12 at noon.
Madison, Darcy Luebbert and Jacob Maguire, also 13, said the chorus had rehearsed hard to prepare the program. The children said the State House audience would probably be one of their biggest ever, and they were excited because they had been told the performance might be televised.
“There are a lot of people, and we’ve been working hard to make sure we know the music,” said Madison. A couple of the pieces have solos, and the students were going to audition for those parts on Monday before the concert. The arrangements also called for some speaking parts.
There was a lot of work involved, the students said. Even though people may imagine everyone knows these songs, Madison said, “A lot of the times there are different arrangements and a piece may have a different ending.”
“We are the only school singing our version of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’” said Darcy, the daughter of Jennifer and Brian Luebbert. Other schools may also sing the song, but the Jamestown version is different than all the others.
“Miss Bullard does a very good job selecting our pieces,” said Darcy. Along with Madison, Darcy is one of the chorus’ student presidents.
The children said the selections are not the same ones the jazz band performs. For instance, the jazz band plays “Baby, it’s cold outside,” Madison said, while “Auld Lang Syne” is traditional for the chorus, according to Jacob.
They all said Bullard has done double duty to prepare them for the performance.
“She has come on a day she doesn’t work,” Darcy said. “She is so very committed.”
For Madison and Darcy, the trip was their first to the State House. The children had been promised a side trip to the Providence Place Mall, too. Bullard also understands fun and arranged the trip to the mall after the concert as a reward. The students’ performance lasted about 25 minutes. They left at 10 a.m. and arrived on the State House steps to sing shortly after 11.
Madison said other schools were at the State House for the concerts, but the seventh- and eighth-grade chorus were the only students performing at that time.
Jacob, son of Julie and Mark Maguire, said his favorite pieces are “Winter Wonderland,” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Jamaican Noel.”
The chorus added the last song to their repertoire two years ago, Madison said, because they like its tempo.
“It’s very fast,” Darcy said.
Madison said the students donned their concert attire for their trip to Capitol Hill – black shirts and khaki pants. Darcy said some even thought about wearing Santa hats.
Before leaving for the concert, Madison expected some parents and some political figures – possibly even Gov. Lincoln Chafee – to attend. “And some passersby,” she said.
Chafee’s office was embroiled Tuesday in a new controversy about the tree lighting ceremony. His spokeswoman, Christine Hunsinger, director of communications, said she misspoke on Monday when she said there would be no tree lighting ceremony this year.
“There will be an official tree lighting ceremony at the State House with the governor in attendance,” she said. “The date and time of the event will be announced when the details are fi- nalized.”
But the children were not concerned about the State House’s politics over the tree, they said. Jacob did remember the controversy last year over the Christmas tree, but all said they didn’t anticipate any protests during their moment in Providence.