Helena High Singers Take Over MSU


Over the first weekend of February, the Montana State University School of Music resumed their annual tradition of inviting singers from high schools around the state to participate in a music festival. The festival alternates between the Soprano-Alto festival and Tenor-Bass festival. The previous two year’s festivals were canceled due to COVID-19. Fifteen sopranos and altos from Helena High are back in town with lots of new knowledge and memories.  


Before the singers boarded the bus to Bozeman, the sopranos and altos who signed up for the festival were given music to prepare on their own. One of the pieces, “I Am In Need Of Music”, was prepared individually and then performed by everyone at the festival. Dr. Mary Hopper, the festival’s guest conductor taught them the second song, “Ich will den Herrn loben” (Oh, I Will Praise the Lord). 


“Everything clicked very nicely,” Kaylee deMontigny said, adding, “It was cool how everything came together after we learned a song at the festival.” The festival’s singers worked with Dr. Hopper from Sunday evening to Monday afternoon, and then sang at a casual “in-formance” to exhibit their two pieces. 


Not only did Helena High students sing with fellow high schoolers from around Montana, but they also sang with sopranos and altos from Montana State University’s choirs. The MSU choirs gave brief performances of their own songs and learned the songs along with the high school students. Festival participants also had the opportunity to perform I Am In Need of Music for the song’s composer, David Brunner, over a Zoom call, allowing students to get more insight into the piece they were singing. Outside of just singing as a group, the sopranos and altos were also split up for group workshop exercises. If students wished to, slots were available for a ten-minute private voice session with other Montana State professors. 


Helena High students got a glimpse of college dining with a free lunch in the MSU Dining Hall. Also, after the first rehearsal, the group went to Bozeman Hot Springs, where singers listened to live music and swam in the water until the hot springs closed. 


Extracurricular activities like this one are enriching experiences for singers that were sorely missed after COVID-19 hit. Besides the AA Festival that Helena High’s Starlighters Choir attended in November, this was one of the first opportunities for students who are not in Starlighters to participate in choir outside of their choir class.  


“I really enjoy…getting the new experience of learning from different directors,” Ashley Nelson said. “They give us a new lens to look at music with, and it’s always really helpful to take that back with us…we have more dynamic choirs and more dynamic practice afterwards.,” Nelson said, adding, “It was really amazing to see what humans can create with this type of vocational art.” 


This year’s Soprano-Alto festival was a success thanks to the educators who organized it and the students who participated. Here’s to a hopeful Tenor-Bass festival next year and more extracurricular opportunities like this one after a bumpy few COVID years.