Choir members and Rachel Jones, the choir director, will depart Voorhees April 6. They will be immersed in rehearsals before the performance and return to campus April 10.
“The choir will be involved in intense rehearsals, but there will be time to experience New York City,” said Jones, who is also a Voorhees alum and former choir member. “We will tour Carnegie Hall. We will go on a cruise, which will include viewing the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island and other historical sites in the city. We also hope to fellowship with some Episcopal churches in the area.”
Jones, who has been choir director for more than six years, said this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students who will participate in the performance. “Students are excited and looking forward to this opportunity,” she said.
Seven upper-class students and five first-year students have been selected for the Carnegie Hall performance, according to Jones who said she was hesitant when her mentor asked her to prepare the Voorhees choir for the event.
“D’Walla Simmons-Burke, director of choral and vocal studies at Winston-Salem State University, my mentor and former choir director at Voorhees, extended the invitation,” Jones said. “I was speechless when Professor Burke made the offer. I asked her to repeat herself. She did, and she said, ‘I have seen you take the choir from one level to the next; I know you can get them ready for this.’ I accepted the invitation.”
Simmons-Burke will serve as the guest conductor for the mass choir. The performance is being coordinated by the Mid Atlantic Production Company.
The Voorhees University Choir performed during the Episcopal Church Conference at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and the AT&T African American Historical Conference in Tennessee, both in 2016. The group has performed at several Episcopal churches across South Carolina. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, churches in Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell and surrounding counties sponsored Voorhees University Day, where the choir performed. However, according to Jones, Carnegie Hall will be the most prestigious venue for performances.
The cost to send the Voorhees choir to Carnegie Hall is $55,000. Jones said those interested in supporting the choir can make their checks payable to Voorhees University and place VU Choir at Carnegie Hall in the memo section. Checks can be mailed to VU Choir at Carnegie Hall, Voorhees University, PO Box 678, Denmark, SC 29042.