Their 10th visit to Eastern Mennonite School brought new energy and people as the internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble, VOCES8, shared the stage with EMS’s Touring Choir and Junior Choir, as well as the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir (SVCC). Guests came from as far away as Boone, N.C., to hear the ensemble in the EMS Auditorium on February 15 and 16.
The mass choir of 140 voices joined VOCES8 to perform four songs which they had practiced together over two days of workshops under the direction of Paul Smith, CEO of Voces8 Foundation, co-founder of VOCES8 and author of the Voces8 Method.
The shared repertoire included the world premiere of The Arrow and the Song, a piece commissioned by SVCC and EMS. Paul Smith composed the piece using the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem by the same name. See a video
They mass choir also performed Michael Barrett’s arrangement of Thixo Onothando. Video
“VOCES8 is at the very top of the choral world,” said EMS choir director, Jared Stutzman in his introductions of the group. “Their performances are brilliant, and their kindness, encouragement, and affirmation is something our students will never forget.”
Student singers and audience members experienced the personable, friendly encouraging VOCES8 vibe from the stage and through one-on-one interactions. Each member made time to visit at length and take photos with students and guests after the show. They communicated their encouragement on stage when singing with and leading the students through affirmation, smiles, hugs and specific feedback.
“Paul Smith is a marvelous director with a real gift for communicating with singers of all ages,” said Jared Stutzman, EMS choral director. “His work with the combined choirs in rehearsals was engaging, inspirational, educational, and powerful. His work with The Arrow and the Song, with its hymn-like ode to Mennonite singing in the Valley, was a wonderful connection to the VOCES8’s long-term relationship with our school and the incredible blessing it has been.”