Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends — and the Newman University Chorale felt right at home spending the holiday weekend with fellow classmates and other friends in New York City.
The Newman Chorale had been invited to sing at Carnegie Hall. It wasn’t their first trip to the famous performance hall, but this trip held a little more sentimental value.
Director of Music Deanne Zogleman said she was happy to join up with good friend Melissa Seiler, Bishop Carroll Catholic High School music director and Newman adjunct professor, on this year's trip to Carnegie Hall.
Zogleman and Seiler collaborated with composer John Leavitt, a Wichita native who also directed music at Newman University during his career, as he celebrated his 60th birthday and his 30th year as a composer/arranger.
A total of 29 Newman students took to the stage along with 231 more from around the country. Kansas singers included the Madrigals group from Bishop Carroll and some singers from various church choirs.
The main performance was a 90-minute concert that took place on Friday, Nov. 25 and included various works by Leavitt as well as his newly written Christmas Cantata.
Zogleman said she was even more pleased to actually join her choir students on stage.
“It’s a thrill knowing that you’re singing in the most prestigious performance hall in America,” said Zogleman. “And to get to sing with my son as well as with my students is incredible.”
One student, Luke Sponsel, said his favorite part of the trip was singing with his brother Joel, also a student at Newman, and his sister Suzette, a student at Bishop Carroll.
"I did not understand the excitement of Carnegie until I stepped foot into the Hall. I was grateful to have the opportunity that most people do not receive," Sponsel said of his expeience.
The group participated in two, four-hour rehearsal sessions and a performance at St. John’s Episcopal Church in preparation for the big night. But the rehearsing didn’t just happen in New York.
Zogleman said, “We had to know the music before we got there, so we had about 12 rehearsals on Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings that started in October.”
All that practice paid off — the group received a standing ovation from the more than 1,600 audience members in attendance. Zogleman was extremely excited about that, saying the “standing ovation was icing on the cake.”
The trip wasn’t all work, though. The travelers enjoyed a family-style dinner on Thanksgiving Day after attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Some even enjoyed a little early Black Friday shopping on Thursday night, and others were able to attend a Broadway show.
And then there was the big proposal.
"Every trip to Carnegie, we’ve had two students that have met through Newman music get engaged," said Zogleman.
Not one to break tradition, Newman alumnus Matt Riedl asked his sweetheart, Newman junior Sydney Daigle, to marry him after serenading her with "their" song, "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys.
After returning to Wichita, the Newman Chorale and the Bishop Carroll Madrigals had the honor of being the second choir to perform the Leavitt's cantata during the Newman Chorale’s annual Christmas concert held on Sunday, Dec. 4 in Performance Hall in the De Mattias Fine Arts Center.