Anna Leonido said she will always remember the morning she and 18 schoolmates in the St. Gregory Barbarigo School choir kicked off the 2018 Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.
The school choir was chosen by Radio City to sing for five minutes on stage as the prelude to the start of Radio City’s first Christmas Spectacular show of 2018 on Nov. 9.
“It was amazing. We got to sing at Radio City, which is like the biggest stage in the world,” said Anna, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at the Garnerville school.
“When we were walking to our seats (to watch the Christmas Spectacular), we walked down the aisle and everyone stood and cheered for us in our section.”
Principal Dana Spicer, who had suggested starting a student choir as an extracurricular activity to music teacher David Azarow for the 2017-2018 school year, planned to take students to the Christmas Spectacular as she had in previous years. When she called for tickets, she was asked if the school had a choir to perform before a show. She said yes.
A video of the choir singing was produced in the church Oct. 15 by Azarow and sent to Radio City.
Once chosen, the choir had only a few weeks to prepare and changes were needed before taking the stage at Radio City. For one, the choir was asked to perform without instrumental music for the first time.
The choir began rehearsing “Dona Nobis Pacem” and “Calypso Lullaby.” The students never performed “Dona Nobis Pacem,” which means “grant us peace.” The choir had performed “Calypso Lullaby,” but they had not sang the show’s version. The children rehearsed twice a week during recess.
Dress rehearsals were staged in front of the student body.
“It was a wonderful opportunity, and I was happy to be a part of it,” Ms. Spicer said. “They were nervous, excited and they were able to pull it off (at Radio City). They were spectacular. They were in a wonderful spot singing in front of everyone. Seeing their happy faces was a delight. Their parents were so proud.
“Hearing the name of the school announced was a great day for Catholic education.”
On the day of the performance, the choir was taken by bus to Radio City, and gathered in a waiting area backstage before taking the stage at 10:45 a.m. While waiting, the students had the opportunity to meet a few of the Rockettes, who wished the singers luck.
“I told them that we’re not separate from Christmas Spectacular on this day, we’re part of it,” Azarow said. “We have a responsibility to prepare the audience through our voices and emotions for the Christmas Spectacular. They felt empowered and a part of the show that day. They were nervous. I was nervous. I never doubted them and they never doubted themselves.
“For me, as a teacher and instructor, it was fulfilling to see my students achieve such a wonderful feat and do it on behalf of the Catholic schools. They were up to the challenge and they were inspired. Their inspiration inspired me. It was exciting for me to be on the stage with them, and it was more exciting for me to be representing the Catholic schools of New York.”