Choir director expands kids' world - 12/22/04
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News from Utica, Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Clinton Township, Mount Clemens

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

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Jeffry Sauger / Special to The Detroit News

Students at L'Anse Creuse High School-North get a chance to perform locally and at such places as Carnegie Hall in New York.

Choir director expands kids' world

L'Anse Creuse's Simon leads students from Carnegie Hall to Zoo

Image
Jeffry Sauger / Special to The Detroit News

L'Anse Creuse High School-North choral director Evey Simon, right, leads students from the audience at the Detroit Zoo.

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP -- Singing has opened many doors for students of Evey Simon -- including the doors of Carnegie Hall.

The choral music director at L'Anse Creuse High School-North, Simon has seen her students perform at many venues locally as well as outside the state, including the music hall in New York City.

"The choir went to New York City last spring," Simon said. "We did sightseeing, saw 'Thoroughly Modern Millie,' went to Harlem and performed in a church there with the Harlem Gospel Choir, and sang at a half-day clinic with a professor from New York University while he worked with the choir.

"We also went to Carnegie Hall, took a tour and sang on the stage."

Simon has worked at L'Anse Creuse-North for six years. She leads four high school groups: the general choir, for ninth graders and other new students; the Concert Choir, consisting only of girls; the Show Choir, with 40 boys and girls who sing popular and Broadway songs and dance; and the select ensemble, with 24 students who must audition. Nearly 140 students participate in the high school's choral music program, she said.

About half of the choir students traveled to New York City, said Keith Peruzzi, a junior from Chesterfield Township who sings in the Show Choir and Select Ensemble.

"I went with the choir to Carnegie Hall," Peruzzi said. "I've been in choirs my entire life, and it was amazing, a dream come true."

Two years ago, a choir group traveled to Chicago for a vocal competition, Simon said between songs at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak, where her choirs were entertaining visitors last week during the Wild Lights exhibit.

"What I like most about the choir is getting the opportunity to meet with so many kids, and getting to bond," Peruzzi said about traveling with the group.

Choir members Kristina Briggs and Gabbie Stiltner, both seniors from Macomb Township, also sang at Carnegie Hall. Both were also at the zoo performance, where the choirs' selections included holiday standards such as "Frosty the Snowman" and "Deck the Halls." They also sang popular songs, such as "The Little Shop of Horrors," "Pinball Wizard" and "You're the One That I Want."

They performed in a heated white tent that was festooned with evergreen garlands and white globe lights, while the audience sat on bales of hay.

"I love to perform and dance," said Stiltner, who gets to do both as a member of the Show Choir.

Briggs has taken voice lessons since the age of 7. While in middle school, she sang the national anthem at Joe Louis Arena with her older sister, Lisa, a former L'Anse Creuse student now studying music at the University of Michigan, and her cousin, Kimmy Hojna, a Macomb Township junior who is also in the Show Choir, said her father, Lee Briggs.

He was also at the zoo concert, playing a supporting role for choir. He handles the sound system when the choirs perform locally.

The choirs consistently earn the highest ratings in the Michigan State Solo and Ensemble competition, Simon said.

Peruzzi attributes the success of the choirs to Simon's leadership.

"Our choir director is so patient," said Peruzzi, who has performed in Simon's choirs for 2 1/2 years. "She never busts a sweat."

Cindy Hampel is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.



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