ARHS choirs get visit from Boston Symphony director

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ARHS choirs get visit from Boston Symphony director
James Burton works with members of ARHS’ Chamber Choir. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – Oftentimes, a fresh perspective can help see new things. 

Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) choirs got that fresh perspective last week thanks to the help of Boston Symphony Orchestra Choral Director James Burton. 

Burton is also the director of orchestral activities at Boston University of Fine Arts School of Music.

“It’s wonderful that they approach their singing with such enthusiasm,” Burton told the Community Advocate. “They’ve been incredibly responsive today to my instruction and bringing some new ideas to them.”

Burton visited ARHS on March 17 to help students prepare for their concert and festival performances at the end of the month. 

“It’s wonderful because they get to hear somebody sometimes say the same thing, but in a new way,” said chorus teacher Olivia Goliger after Burton’s clinic with the chamber choir. “Just hearing it in lots of different ways can help them learn in a new way.”

Senior and chamber choir member Juan Benatuil said he loved working with Burton and the other visitors during the clinic.

It’s good for morale, he said, noting that events like this help the choir come together and focus on one thing.

“They always bring so much more knowledge and wisdom than you would have at a typical rehearsal,” Benatuil said.

Goliger performs as part of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus — which Burton conducts. The group also performs throughout the year along with the Boston Symphony and the Boston Pops. 

This is the second time that Burton has worked with Algonquin students. 

Last year, Burton helped lead a master class with some of the students and participated in a question-and-answer session with all of the chorus classes, answering questions about composition and his music journey

“It was cool for the kids to hear how a music career can run,” Goliger said.

As part of his clinic with ARHS’ chamber choir this month, Burton helped the choir work on three pieces. 

“They were very quick to respond to what James had to say,” Goliger said. “That really means that they’re comfortable in what they’ve got going on and that they want to do the next thing.”

The students performed their music. They then broke it down and worked on it piece by piece with Burton. He helped the students refine everything from their diction to the dynamics in the song.

“What was so wonderful was to see how Ms. Goliger is leading this group of young people into a lifelong love of singing and of choral music,” Burton said. “Choral music has the incredible capacity to bring people together with a variety of talents and backgrounds and has an incredibly broad repertoire and has done so for many centuries.”

Burton noted that the ARHS singers were exploring different repertoires, including recent and ancient compositions.

“Make music like your life depends on it because that’s when people are moved,” Burton said when asked what he hoped ARHS students took away from this event.

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