Moffat County Locals: Moffat County choir students raise their voices to rise to All-State level
With a solid rhythm of practice and performance to prepare them, three Moffat County High School choir students sang their way to the big time.
MCHS’s Owen Allen, Eliana Mack and Courtney Smith recently learned they would represent their school as part of the Colorado All-State Choir.
The audition took place at Colorado Mesa University in late October, as select singers across the Western Slope demonstrated their skills.
Allen, Mack and Smith were among several Moffat County students who competed, having chosen classical pieces back in spring with months of preparation at the insistence of teacher Grace Pomelo.
“She had us working on this forever,” Mack said.
Smith’s piece was “Come Raggio Di Sol,” which translates to “as a ray of sunshine” from Italian to English.
It was one she felt was within her capabilities while still being a challenge in another language. But, it was the more intricate portions that intrigued her when making her choice.
“It’s in D minor, and I love minor keys, and it’s got a nice resolution at the end,” she said.
Mack sang the folk tune “Dink’s Song,” which she felt would be well suited for her soprano range.
“It’s just such a pretty piece that I couldn’t not do it,” she said.
Allen performed Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Bright Is the Ring of Words.” Finding the right song was tricky for the bass voice, who found a lot of possible solo works better suited to tenors.
“The highest note was a D or D-flat, which is just about the peak of my range, so I had to go into my growler notes,” he said. “It had a lot of dynamic contrast, and diction was super-important, like how you pronounce your words.”
The three of them, having sung together since middle school and also part of the MCHS band program, were part of Western Slope Honor Choir during the 2017-18 school year, which took them to Gunnison. Mack and Allen noted they met a girl named Faith who was a standout and also encouraged them to audition for any kind of competition they could, All-State in particular.
But, it was their choir director that really made them want to excel in the discipline.
“Miss P pushed us and made sure she had all the resources to help us succeed,” Mack said. “She’s made quite the army out of us.”
Mock auditions were part of the process, and Allen said he felt more prepared as a result thanks to Pomeleo’s work with him.
“She probably put more hours into this than we did,” Allen added.
When Mack learned in November that she had made the cut, she didn’t hold back on the celebration, much to the dismay of a toy she happened to have in her hands.
“I was holding a stuffed pig at the time, and I was squeezing it to death. I was almost in tears,” she said. “I thought for sure I wasn’t going to make it, and then she told me and I remember thinking, ‘that’s not right, I know I messed up a ton.’ But, I guess I really did it.”
The All-State Choir Festival will take place Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Denver, complete with a concert at Buell Theatre.
Smith said she is most looking forward to performing alongside elite songbirds her own age. The work starts swiftly as they will be expected to have music and lyrics memorized and ready to go.
“Going to a place like this where everybody already knows their music and it’s not a process of having to learn their parts, it’s like a dream,” she said.
Allen said he likes the process of learning something beforehand by himself and then making additional work.
“It’s more like fine-tuning,” he said.
Pomeleo, vocal and theater instructor for MCHS and Craig Middle School, said she has been looking to get students to the high level after a drought of several years.
“Since I started here, we have been working hard to improve our literacy and ear training skills in the hopes of breaking that chain and getting students to All-State Choir again,” she said. “It is the highest honor for a choral student and is the equivalent of attending a state tournament in sports. I am so proud of these students who have made great strides in their music education.”