Not only do Princeton Girlchoir and Princeton Boychoir perform throughout New Jersey, they travel nationally and internationally — through skies of blue and clouds of white — to share in song both with and for others.
Following two years of largely virtual rehearsals and performances due to the pandemic, students at Westrick Music Academy are happy to return to a wonderful world of singing together in-person with other choirs.
Performing under the direction of Artistic Director Dr. Lynnel Joy Jenkins, singers from Princeton Girlchoir’s Concert Choir, Cantores, and Ensemble gave concerts in renowned venues throughout Montréal and Québec City, including the Basilica of Notre-Dame.
Members of Princeton Boychoir, under the direction of Education Director Fred Meads, made their international debut as part of the Boychoir’s fifth anniversary season, collaborating on concerts in Prague and Vienna. One of the highlights was a performance at Dvorak Hall, home of the Czech Philharmonic, under the baton of renowned composer and conductor Dr. Rollo Dilworth.
These young singers, from 12 to 18 years of age, experienced first-hand the power of music to bring people together from different cultures and backgrounds. A few of them shared the impact of the experience in their own words:
James C. Teti, Princeton Boychoir Treble Choir, student at St. Paul Catholic School in Princeton.
“There is an unexpected power in 130 people together with a common good purpose. In our case, the purpose was to bring joy through music, a moving mission to partake in,” James said. “Our story begins weeks before any concert, flight, or even packing, when a small group of young men, no more than 14 years of age, come together to make music together. The rehearsal and learning period which took place before the tour served to make the Princeton Boychoir more musically confident and more of a community, and I made friends with all 13 other boys in that room.
“After nearly 12 hours of travel, we arrived in the beautiful city of Prague. The next few days were a whirlwind of touring, singing in national cathedrals and even moving other Czechs and tourists to tears, and the consumption of Czech culture, architecture, and cuisine.
“However, the most memorable parts of the whole tour were the three-hour rehearsals with the rest of the festival choir. Being in a room with so many devoted musicians and making wonderful choral music under the direction of Dr. Rollo Dilworth, who is a personal favorite composer and our director, was simply an amazing experience I certainly will never forget.
“After our lovely times in Prague, we hopped onto our bus and drove to the amazing city of Vienna. On this same day, we saw many of the palaces from which decisions, which would
shape world history, were made.
“On our last day in Europe, we sang a concert in St. Peter’s Church on the Ringstrasse. At the beginning of the concert, there were very few people in the church, but by the end, there were over 150 people. The amazing thing is that almost all of them stayed. By the end of the concert all of the pews in the church were filled and the music lovers had to fill the church all the way from buttress to naive, standing at the very back to get a glimpse of this concert when necessary.
“This concert was an incredible musical experience. After touring these beautiful cities, we had left some small mark on the lands we visited with our concerts, tours, and bright Blue T-Shirts; I for one, can say this tour has left a positive mark on me,” James said.
Aishwarya Rao, Princeton Girlchoir Ensemble, student at West Windsor Plainsboro High School South
“Our trip to Quebec was an action-packed adventure filled with just the right balance of everything [from] tourist activities like walking around Old Quebec and Quebec City, opportunities to sing our hearts out in beautiful venues including the Notre-Dame Basilica [to] time for shopping and dining in Quartier Petit Champlain,” Aishwarya said.
Rao provided a quick snapshot of the kind of plans the choir had each day.
“On the first day of the trip, after arriving in Lake George, we had the opportunity to take a painting workshop by the gorgeous lake and sing at the Sembrich, rejuvenating us after the long travel,” she said. “We later drove back to Lake George for a dinner cruise and came back to our hotels with full, happy bellies, and stars in our eyes after seeing just how beautiful Lake George and its tiny islands were.
“Throughout the trip, not only were we able to see breathtaking sights and take part in fun activities but also, we learned so much about the culture in Quebec and the stories behind all that we were seeing. One of my favorite stories was how, in Quartier Petit Champlain, the statue of the founder of Quebec actually had the face of a criminal from decades ago, as no one actually knew what the founder’s face looked like.
“We also learned about a phrase that is somewhat of a slogan in Quebec, ‘je me souviens’ which translates to ‘I remember.’ Our wonderful tour guide explained to us that it means the people of Quebec City remember their culture, their history, and their values, which I thought was very powerful.
“This year’s international tour helped me open my eyes to the rich cultural diversity that makes up our world, as well as the commonalities between every country. Not only did I love touring Quebec because I got the chance to put my French skills to the test, but it helped me realize that all across the world, everyone has similar passions and similar struggles. Our concerts showed me the power of music. People who didn’t know who we were came together to listen to us sing, and then showered us with love and compliments after.
“What’s more, at our performance in Chalmers-Wesley United Church, everyone who attended was encouraged to donate to a fund to aid the Canadian troops who have been helping Ukraine. Music, our common passion, brought us together and our shared understanding of the struggle for independence enabled us to help others,” Aishwarya said.
Jack Elliott, Princeton Boychoir Young Men’s Ensemble, student at Hopewell Valley Central High School
“The tour to Prague and Vienna was my third tour with the Princeton Boychoir, and it was my favorite experience so far. This was my first time going on tour as a member of the Young Men’s Ensemble, and I think it really enhanced the experience,” Jack said. “We were given more freedom, and our head boys were great leaders. We also got to work with Dr. Rollo Dilworth, a brilliant conductor that taught the boys of our choir invaluable lessons. Another one of my favorite things about this tour, and the tour experience in general, is meeting people from other choirs. I made friends with those in choirs from Washington, Florida, and New York, and I still talk to some to this day.
“We also got to see absolutely beautiful sights in Prague and Vienna. Overall, this trip was an amazing bonding experience for the whole choir, as well as a wonderful and successful musical experience that I will forever be grateful for,” he said.
Westrick Music Academy in Princeton Junction is currently auditioning for the 2022-23 school year. There are many performance opportunities planned for the year.
For those interested in joining Princeton Girlchoir or Princeton Boychoir or for more information about all of Westrick Music Academy’s programs visit https://westrickmusic.org/