By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The cold and damp conditions outside of the George Harvell Civic Center couldn’t stop the warmth and love expressed inside Sunday evening for The Millington Chorale.
Part sendoff for its April 2 trip to New York City and a way to show gratitude, the Chorale joined forces with The Memphis Brass & Percussion Ensemble under the direction of Conductor Jeff Murdock for a concert.
More than a year ago Murdock and his Music Department embarked on a journey to give Millington Central High School students a chance to perform in the historic Carnegie Hall. The Millington Chorale satisfied all the qualifications in the application process but stood $60,000 away from reaching its dream.
“We stand here today because you all met the financial goal,” MCHS Principal Mark Neal told the audience. “We made it because of you and your generosity. We were able to met that through our network, so hats off to you.”
Throughout fund-raising and outreach efforts, the Millington Chorale met its financial goal and will be heading to Carnegie Hall as one of six international groups invited. The group from MCHS will be one of two from the United States.
Murdock and the children invited parents, friends, community leaders and donors to the Civic Center to listen to the concert they will perform in the Big Apple.
With the musicians in place including Organist Leo Davis Jr., Murdock took the stage and warmed them up with Praise the Lord with Drums and Cymbals. Then the Chorale entered the main auditorium in four standing rows singing The Word was God.
Once the Millington Chorale took the stage behind the orchesta as Davis played We Shall Overcome, the students then performed Jubilate Deo, Sing Unto God, Cantate Domino, and If Ye Love Me.
Then a small break gave Murdock a chance to thank the audience again and Neal for their support. Murdock’s wife Jana Pitts took the floor for a moment to reflect on her husband’s vision to take an established and well-known Millington Music Department to higher levels.
She noted it was the community from the students’ homes to the local businesses that helped the Millington Music Department reach this first-time achievement.
“It’s kind of been surreal,” Jeff said. “You don’t expect people to back you the way Millington has. There were a couple of articles that ran through The Millington Star and another one ran in The Commercial Appeal. The money just started flooding in like tens of thousands of dollars. It’s really been humbling to watch it happen. And all these kids have grown because of it.”
To conclude the night, those in the audience displayed their generosity one more time as a spending fund was taken up for the children.
And the final two songs of the night were My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord and Hallelujah.
“It’s been a long tough road,” Murdock concluded. “The kids have been working really hard. Tonight was in many ways the most important concert these kids and me have ever done leading up to this Carnegie Hall performance. I’m sure then that will be the most important. But as of tonight this is it.”
The Millington Chorale consist of sopranos Shanythia Allen, Chabeli Brooks, Brandy Carmichael, Helena Jones and Meghan Sands; tenors Doran Arnold Jr., Cazzie Ali Foster Jr., El Paso Pitts, Carlos Reynolds, Tarielle Roberson and Shelby Swift; altos Shanelle Bultron, Marrisa Hunt, Victoria Johnson, Quanesha McKay, Kendalyn Mebane, Christiana Purnell, Joy Stewart and Justina Wakefield; and basses Devynn Brandon, Jamario Ervin, Erius Hardaway, Joseph Marcello, Corey Martin, Kylen Parker, Jonathan Patterson, Angelo Pirtle and Jontae Wiggins.
The Memphis Brass & Percussioin Ensemble members are Ben Strickland (trumpet), Greg Bonisalli (horn), Bill Flores (tuba), Tom Clary (trumpet), Matt Visconti (trombone), Mike Karcz (timpani) Randy Ballard (trumpet) Eddie Clark (trombone) and Corey Martin (cymbals).
The Millington Chorale would like to recognize boosters Serita Morton (president), Esilda Brooks (vice president), Dhawn Buchanan (secretary), Stacy Harris (treasurer) and Tibu Purnell (assistant treasurer).
For more information on the Millington Chorale visit http://millingtoncentralhs.scsk12.org or e-mail MillingtonChorale@gmail.com.