Catholic High School Choir Festival features works of influential composer

  • Written by Julie A. Ferraro
  • Published in Local
A combined choir of students from high schools around the archdiocese perform at the 2019 Catholic High School Choir Festival. This year’s festival is February 3 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Photo: Courtesy Alison Seaton A combined choir of students from high schools around the archdiocese perform at the 2019 Catholic High School Choir Festival. This year’s festival is February 3 at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Photo: Courtesy Alison Seaton

SEATTLE – From Mozart to show tunes and “everything in between,” choirs from 10 high schools in the archdiocese will showcase their musical talents during the 20th Catholic High School Choir Festival, February 3 at Benaroya Hall.

After individual choir performances, the approximately 600 students will assemble in three choirs to perform compositions by this year’s guest conductor, Jim Papoulis of New York. Papoulis has conducted orchestras throughout the world and worked with artists including Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain and Beyoncé. His music has been featured at the Beijing Olympics and the National September 11 Museum.

“The students are really, really enthusiastic” about the chance to work with such an influential musician, said Alison Seaton, chair of the event since 2003 and director of the glee and chamber choirs at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bellevue. “It pulls the kids a little further on their [musical] journey.”

High schools participating are Archbishop Murphy, Bellarmine Preparatory, Bishop Blanchet, Eastside Catholic, Forest Ridge, Holy Names Academy, Kennedy Catholic, O’Dea, Pope John Paul II and Seattle Preparatory.

Collaboration is key

Choir directors from the 10 schools work as a team to select each year’s guest conductor, and the conductors chosen “are the top of the heap,” Seaton said. That fact is reflected in the exponential growth of the high schools’ choir programs since the festival launched two decades ago, Seaton added.

Papoulis also is co-founder of nonprofit Foundation for Small Voices, which brings music to children from all walks of life.

“Jim is very active in social justice,” Seaton said.

Lindsay Brown, choir director at Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien, said she enjoys the collaborative aspect of the festival. “Everybody wears a different hat each year,” said Brown, who has been part of the event 2002.

This year, she’s responsible for the logistics of moving students on and off the stage throughout the evening. It could be a nightmare, Brown said, but she credits Frank Lewis, former music director at Tacoma’s Bellarmine Preparatory School, with devising a method to keep the process organized. That includes arranging the students by height and voice part to ensure the music blends well and the students can be seen by the audience.

To end the evening, all of the approximately 600 students will take the stage to sing the finale.

Although it’s a lot of work, Brown said, “it’s a wonderful festival.”

Catholic High School Choir Festival

When: February 3 at 7 p.m.

Where: Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle

Tickets: $13 per person at the door