By Diane Fagan Affleck
March 8, 2023, marked the first rehearsal for the New England Classical Singers’ new collaboration with the Methuen High School music department. As NECS members set their GPS navigation to 1 Ranger Road in Methuen, students prepared to learn Latin and sing a style of music they don’t encounter all that often. On that first Wednesday evening, we met in the high school’s spacious rehearsal room, and together began to work on Schubert’s Mass in G, the major work in our upcoming joint concert on May 21.
The combined group is conducted by Artistic Director David Hodgkins, who asks us all to keep our vowels pure and our consonants crisp. He intersperses elements of music history and theory with vocal coaching, all aimed at helping us understand and execute the music most effectively for our audience. As we prepare our parts, we’re looking forward to when it all comes together with the professional orchestra and soloists who will perform with us.
Twenty years of high school collaborations
NECS has a long history of rewarding collaborations with high school students, having performed with the Lawrence Girls Ensemble for more than twenty years. With the demise of the Lawrence High School choral music program during the pandemic, NECS looked for an opportunity to renew this educational outreach, which is such an important part of our mission. Methuen’s supervisor of fine arts, Cheryl Mancini, and choral director, Ben Woodard, enthusiastically agreed to work with NECS beginning this spring.
Members of both groups enjoy the cross-generational and cross-cultural collaboration. For students, the project offers an opportunity to see how music can be a lifelong pursuit, and for NECS members, it’s a chance to enlarge their community through a common interest. When asked why they are participating in the project, two high school sopranos said that they just love to sing. It’s exactly the same for NECS members—we enjoy making music together.
Massachusetts Cultural Council award
Recognizing the value of the project, the Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded NECS a STARS Residency grant, the goal of which is to bring together students, teachers, and practicing artists to “create rich cultural experiences.”
The concert will be presented on May 21, 2023, at the Methuen High School’s Center for Performing Arts, and will be free and open to the public. Join us!