The Choral Music program at the GDS High School welcomes students from all grades and walks of life. In our full choir, GDS Singers, 100 high school voices come together each Wednesday night to join their voices in song. Of course, glorious music is truly one of the secondary benefits of any fine ensemble. Our primary goal is to use choral music to instill in our student singers and audiences a sense of peace and goodwill, demonstrate the great benefits of teamwork, hone fine leadership skills, and celebrate the great joy of life!
Over the past six or seven years, there have been several studies published in reputable journals around the world extolling the great benefits of singing in a choir. People who sing in choruses demonstrate characteristics that make them remarkably good citizens. For example, choral singers are much more likely to be generous by volunteering in their communities and contributing money to philanthropic causes. They’re far more likely to take on leadership roles, too, and participate in the political process. (The Chorus Impact Study, 2009) Not only does singing in choirs help make the world a better place—it also actually improves the health and wellbeing of the singers themselves. Singing in a group has been show in multiple studies to reduce stress and regulate one’s heart rate. (Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science, 2003)(Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 2004) People who participate in a choir enjoy a greater feeling of togetherness and being part of a collective endeavor than others involved in different social activities.
Each year, the full choir offers three concerts here in DC. Lacking a suitable performance space on campus provides us with the opportunity to explore some of the great venues our city has to offer. In February, the chamber choir takes a six-day choir concert tour. This year we will concertize in San Francisco. Past tours have taken us to the Dominican Republic, the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, Germany, Czech Republic, and Spain. These concert tours started five years ago and have provided the advanced singers at the High School opportunities to perform throughout the world.
In addition to showing off the excellent musicianship of our students, concerts are frequently shared with local choirs. In so doing, our GDS students have once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience other cultures through a musician’s lens. Choir tours also provide vital community bonding within our group. Strong social bonds help us to create the high quality music that has become a hallmark of the performing arts department in the High School.
This recording (7.6 MB) was made in the Washington National Cathedral by the GDS Singers in October 2016. The piece, “Northern Lights,” is by the young Latvian composer, Ēriks Ešenvalds. He came up with the idea after seeing the Northern Lights during a trip to Norway. The song—for a choir with hand chimes and water-filled goblets—is his attempt to create the sound of the Northern Lights. Tajin Rogers ’16 sings an introduction in Latvian before the GDS Singers other 100 voices join in with an English text the composer borrowed from journals that Charles Francis Hall (1821-71) and Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) recorded on separate Arctic expeditions. The full text is below.
It was night, and I had gone on deck several times. Iceberg was silent; I too was silent. It was dark and cold. At nine o’clock I was below in my cabin when the captain hailed me with the words: “Come above, Hall! Come above at once!”
The whole sky was one glowing mass of colored flames…It was like softly playing, gently rocking, silvery waves on which dreams travel into unknown worlds.
Translation of Latvian Folk Song:
Whenever at night in the north, I saw the souls of the dead soldiers having their battle, I was afraid “what if they bring their war to my land too?”