VOCES8, an internationally celebrated a cappella vocal ensemble based in London, England, will make their 11th appearance at Eastern Mennonite School February 15 and 16, 2020. For the first time, the group’s educational outreach will include a collaborative workshop with the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir (SVCC), along with the choirs of Eastern Mennonite School.
The two concerts featuring VOCES8 will be unique. On Saturday, Feb. at 7:30 p.m., VOCES8 will perform a full concert of their eclectic repertoire, with individual selections from the EMS Touring Choir and SVCC serving as a prelude.
The second concert, Sunday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m., will also feature VOCES8, but will conclude with a collaborative mass choir combining the voices of EMS, SVCC and VOCES8.
On Sunday, the combined mass choir will perform “The Arrow and the Song,” a piece commissioned by SVCC and EMS. Paul Smith composed the piece using the poem by the same name by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Smith is CEO of VCM Foundation, co-founder of Voces8 and author of the Voces8 Method.
History of Voces8 and EMS
Voces8 has performed at and led workshops EMHS nine times missing only 2019 in the past 10 years due to a scheduling conflict. The stop is an unusual one for the group because it is the one place where they stay in local homes.
“Visiting EMHS enables us to be exposed to the ethos of this amazing community, and it helps remind us what making music should really be about: family, community and sharing our gifts for the enhancement of society and the world around us.” says Barney Smith, co-founder, artistic director and countertenor.
“It’s like coming home,” Smith continues. “We love the welcome, hospitality and the interaction; it’s a really special place for us. The students are unique not just for their talent, but for their thirst for knowledge and desire to go out and do something good for the world; it’s very inspiring.”
“The relationship with Voces8 has broadened our students’ musical exposure and provided exceptional master class training experiences,” says Jared Stutzman, EMS choir director.
In addition to hearing and studying with the ensemble at their own school, past EMHS choirs have worked with the group in London. Most recently, in June of 2018, Stutzman led the EMHS Touring Choir on a month-long European tour, which included time at the Voces8 Centre, an “international centre of excellence for vocal music performance, outreach and education in the heart of London,” according to its website.
The idea of joining with the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir to host Voces8 has been in the works for nearly two years.
“We are thrilled for this experience for our choristers,” says Janet Hostetter, SVCC artistic and executive director. “Our choristers take seriously the challenge to pursue artistry and excellence in singing. What better way for them to continue growing vocally than to work with a renowned octet that is known globally for their vocal expertise?”
Bringing the high school and children’s choir together for master classes and performance builds on the decade-long relationship that the school developed with Voces8 to further excellence in music appreciation, performance and exposure.
Jay Hartzler, former EMS choir director, learned about Voces8 in 2008 from a friend who heard them at an American Choral Directors Association. He invited them to the school, combining master class opportunities for the school choirs with performances that have delighted the school community as well as broader audiences with each visit.
Tickets are $30 advance purchase or $35 at the door. There are no reserved seats. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are available for purchase online or at the school’s front office at 801 Parkwood Drive, Harrisonburg, Virginia between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays when school is in session. Call 540-236-6025 with questions.
A dessert reception during intermission at each concert will benefit the EMHS Touring Choir trip to England, Netherlands, and Germany in June 2020.
To get to the auditorium, pass the school at 801 Parkwood Drive and turn into the upper entrance leading behind the building.