Bluefield College Students Perform at Carnegie Hall, Serve on Mission in New York

June 24, 2008 | RSS

Article by freelance writer Sharde Sherman     

Piano virtuoso Authur Rubinstein was once approached on a street near Carnegie Hall and asked, "Pardon me sir, but how do I get to Carnegie Hall?" He replied, "Practice, practice, practice."    

Although Rubinstein's comment is considered legend, the voice ensemble Variations from Bluefield College has added their own truth to this myth. In just two years, the students from the select BC music ensemble have been chosen to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City, not once, but twice. When asked what it takes to receive two performances in one of the most venerable musical venues in the United States for classical and popular music, they proudly stated "Pray, practice, pray."     

On June 01, 2008, the Variations ensemble of Bluefield College united with Bonsack Baptist Church of Roanoke, Virginia, to perform under the direction of composer and conductor Mark Hayes, a Baylor University alumnus and recipient of the Dove Award for his album, "I've Just Seen Jesus."  

Bryant Moxley, director of Variations and chair of the BC Department of Music was pleased to be invited to Carnegie Hall for the second time. "The entire group was excited about the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall," said Moxley. "I feel as if the second invitation affirmed our first participation in Carnegie Hall."     

May 27, 2007 marked Hayes' conducting debut at Carnegie Hall. Because of his immense success, MidAmerica Productions invited Hayes to perform at their 2008 hosted event. Hayes graciously accepted the offer and felt this performance outweighed his last.     

"I feel like the choir I had to work with this time was even stronger than the first," said Hayes. "I had a greater number of adult singers with more mature voices. They were able to respond to my conducting in positive ways."     

Hayes noted that even the most diligent choirs have different customs of interpreting music, providing Hayes with the challenge of making 225 voices sing in uniform with only nine hours of practice.     

Over the years, Hayes has developed a personal connection with various churches and music ministers. It was during a composer weekend held in mid-September 2007 at Bonsack Baptist that Hayes invited both the Variations of Bluefield College and the Roanoke County church choir of Bonsack to perform at Carnegie Hall.     

"We were all really excited to have the opportunity to go back to Carnegie Hall," said Bluefield College music alumnus Adam McAllister.  "At the time we had planned on going to Europe to do a music ministry tour, but who could pass up the prestige of Carnegie Hall?"     

Hayes selected three pieces from his own compositions, including "Te Deum," "Magnificat," and his debut of "Spirit Suite II," which the master choir performed. BC senior music major Tori Krein hoped that the message of the music rang loud in the audiences' souls.     

"Mark Hayes writes so beautifully," Krein said. "He understands the power of the message which is portrayed in his words and music. I know people were encouraged by our performance."     

Hayes' sacred music has an obvious spiritual intent and mission.  He states that he creates beautiful music for the world. "I pray that the Holy Spirit exhibited in me speaks to the singer. It is my hope that the singer will then identify and communicate the Spirit and message to the audience," he said.      

"Before the performance Mark Hayes came backstage and had prayer with us," Krein added. "The music we were singing connected us deeply, emotionally and spiritually. He reminded us that we were the witnesses to what we were singing and encouraged us to be a canvas of expression."  

"As a group, I believe we were more confident, having successfully performed at Carnegie Hall before," said Moxley. "We knew the hard work and practice it would take to make the performance successful, and because we were well prepared, I sense the experience was more memorable."     "The first thoughts I had while standing on the stage of Carnegie Hall was that I was simply in awe," said Krein. "I looked out into the audience and couldn't believe how many people filled up the never-ending seats."     

Although the performance at Carnegie Hall was intended to be the central focus of the BC choral trip, the group shared in the vision to make their trip mission-focused.      

For McAllister, a veteran of Carnegie Hall, he felt most passionate about the opportunity to participate in mission work at Graffiti Church located at East 7th Street in Manhattan.      

"I was so excited to go back to New York City in order to help out with the Graffiti ministry," said McAllister. "We spent three days split between two churches working with the after-school program for children in 3rd-10th grade."     

Krein also agreed that working with Graffiti turned out to be her favorite part of the trip. "My most memorable part of the trip was having the opportunity to lead a Bible Study for the children of Graffiti," said Krein. "It broke my heart hearing their stories, but it was so amazing to see how people have been changed through the Graffiti ministry. They were so blessed despite what little they had."     

McAllister could see God's work at hand as he worked in the soup kitchen serving meals to those whom were poverty stricken. "After we served meals, Variations had the chance to put together a worship service. I could see how God was moving in the hearts of the people who had so little," said McAllister.     

"It was like three trips in one," said Moxley. "The first three days we spent participating in a traditional choir tour, followed by ministry at Graffiti I and II. We finished our tour at Carnegie Hall. There was such beauty and power in the way the entire choir was able to work in three very different settings. Whether in the suburban setting of a traditional church, the inner-city setting of Graffiti, or at the prestigious setting of Carnegie Hall, I saw the power of how God used each of our gifts to bless very different people."     

During the choir's weeklong trip to the Big Apple, the BC ensemble was asked to take part in the "Early Show" on CBS. "We had to get up at 5:00 in the morning," said Krein. Although the students were not asked to perform, they agreed that it was a privilege to be invited.     

The trip to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall is just one more outstanding performance the choir can add to its already hefty resume. The choir has already had numerous invitations for the upcoming years, including an invitation by Dr. Timothy Sharp, who directed the Variations choir during their debut performance at Carnegie Hall, just two years ago.     

"We have been invited to Israel, England and Ireland," stated Moxley. "My vision for next year is to continue expanding the repertoire of the ever-growing group. I hope to integrate the new instrumental ensemble combining opportunities to create beautiful music."