By Sue Wright
Special to The Outlook
The La Cañada High School Chamber Singers got a jump on spring break recently with a five-day tour of New Orleans, which choral director Jeff Brookey described as one of the best tours he’s been on.
“The purposes of touring are to expose the students to enriching cultural experiences, to sing in interesting venues and to have a good time,” Brookey said. “New Orleans more than met all the criteria.”
LCUSD administrator Lindi Dreibelbis, who traveled with the group, agreed. “I’ve chaperoned many national and international student trips throughout my career, and this was one of the very best,” Dreibelbis said. “Each day was filled with educational opportunities that students cannot experience in Southern California. Students saw, heard and felt first-hand the history, culture and music of the area.”
In addition to participating in a host of cultural activities, the 34 singers experienced many musical highlights in New Orleans, including being named the Outstanding Choral Group at the WorldStrides Heritage Festival in which they competed.
“I am very proud of this choir,” Brookey said. “They are exceptionally hard-working, and they sang extremely well throughout the trip, as they have all year. They are also really great kids.”
The singers and their eight adult chaperones also explored nearby swampland on airboats, decorated masks at Mardi Gras World, visited the National World War II Museum and interacted with a jazz sextet at historic Preservation Hall, where the musicians endeavor to protect and perpetuate the musical traditions and heritage of New Orleans.
The students also spent time in the French Quarter, where they ate beignets at Café Du Monde and performed an informal concert at St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in North America.
The singers also worked in a private clinic with Meg Frazier, the director of choral activities at Loyola University, and sang a variety of acapella pieces from their classical repertoire at Trinity Episcopal Church’s “Bach Around the Clock” event.
Their most unlikely performance occurred on the airboat tour.
“I am so blessed to be working with young people who will sing anywhere for the pure joy of it,” Brookey said. “A year ago these students were performing in some of the most iconic churches in Italy, including the Sistine Chapel. On this trip, they performed an impromptu song in the middle of a Louisiana swamp, surrounded by alligators.”
Despite the tour’s success, some of the students had conflicting emotions when they returned home. Senior Kelly Steele noted that the majority of the Chamber Singers are seniors who have been singing together in the choral program for four or six years and have just a few performances together remaining.
“It was amazing to have such a fun final tour together in New Orleans, but it was a little sad when it ended,” she said.
Remaining performances include the annual Pops Concert — which includes all of LCHS’ choirs — on May 4 in LCHS’ auditorium at 6 and 8 p.m., and the Chamber Singers Farewell Concert at 3 p.m. on May 26 at La Cañada Presbyterian Church.