Montana Choirs Reunite For the 2021 AA Choir Festival


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On November 8th, the Starlighters Choir packed up their music and walked to Helena Middle School to participate in the annual AA Choir Festival. “Educational,” “beneficial,” and “pretty flippin’ rad” were just a few of the words the singers used to describe the two-day event. 


The AA Choir Festival is an annual music festival amongst Montana public high schools. During the event, a few select choirs come together to perform music after a two-day workshop led by a guest conductor. This year’s guest conductor was Dr. Kirk Aamot, the Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor of Music at Montana State University.  


Helena High hosted two other high schools for the AA Festival: Capital High School’s Saturday’s Children choir and Charles M. Russell High School choirs. Combined, 93 choir students took part.     


 To open the concert, Dr. Aamot conducted two performances by the Montana State University choir, Voces Luminis. During the concert, the combined high school choirs performed four songs they worked on during the workshop. In addition to the four songs that the three choirs sang together, each choir was asked to prepare two songs individually. Helena High School’s choir, Starlighters, prepared “Sing We and Chant It” and “The Dreamkeeper”. 


A sentiment expressed by many was that this year’s AA Choir Festival was a welcome return to singing. Last school year, the AA Choir Festival was cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although singers did not have to wear masks, some precautions were taken. For instance, instead of staying in host houses with local students, students from outside of Helena stayed in a hotel.    


Despite the changes, the choir’s spirit was still the same. There were several moments during the festival that stuck with Starlighters choir, especially the opportunity to go sing in the Capital’s rotunda with all the other choirs. “It was like experiencing choir for the first time all over again,” Ashley Nelson, a senior at Helena High, said. “I think everyone should be able to feel the joy that I felt sitting on that concrete floor listening to angels,” Nelson added.  


The new insight into how different choirs worked together was particularly eye-opening for students. “It gives people an opportunity to sing in a large choir and to also get to see a different style of conducting,” senior Brogan Vranka said. McCoy Vranka agreed, adding that the festival “is an opportunity to learn new things and see the way other choirs do things.” For some students, the festival may be a glimpse into the future. “Just having the college conductor gives you a chance to know what you are going to experience if you choose to continue with choral music,” senior Dakotah Hurley said. 


Needless to say, Starlighters had a blast at AA Festival, and will miss the experience (except for sitting in ‘2nd Position’ on the HMS Auditorium chairs all day). To every choir who participated in the AA Festival, good for you (to take a phrase out of Dr. Aamot’s lexicon), and here’s to a great AA Festival next year!