By Shannon Herrity '23, student correspondent
Student musicians in choir, orchestra, and band at Bishop O'Connell High School swept through the Windy City last weekend to compete in the 2023 WorldStrides National Heritage Festival. While in Chicago, the group was able to experience the famous River Boat Architecture Tour, the Navy Pier, visiting the famous "Cloud Gate" sculpture a.k.a "The Bean," Untouchables Chicago Gangster Tour, Chicago 360 including The Tilt, and--the one thing no Chicago trip is complete without--deep dish pizza from Giordano's. Friday night, before competition day on Saturday, choir students attended a performance of Grease the Musical at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook.
"I enjoyed the show more than I expected," said sophomore Andrew Cobb, who also had the opportunity to speak with one of the technician directors after the show.
At the same time, members of the orchestra and band attended a concert by the Chicago Symphony. "The program was beautiful and very impressive," remarked senior orchestra member, Gregory de Dios.
The main reason for the trip took place on Saturday with three choir ensembles competing including, the O'Connell Combined Choir (made up of young women from O'Connell Singers and young men from the O'Connell Men's Choir), the Chamber Choir, and the Women's Camerata. Instrumental ensembles included O'Connell's String Orchestra, the Symphonic Band, and the Jazz Band.
The climax of the trip was the presentation of the awards, which took place following dinner at the Medieval Times venue. To say the O'Connell music program did well is an understatement. The group walked away with the following awards: a Gold rating with a first-place ranking for all three choir ensembles, a Gold rating, and second-place ranking for the String Orchestra, a Bronze rating for Symphonic Band, and a Silver rating for Jazz Band. O'Connell Choir won the Choral Sweepstakes award for having at least two ensembles with a combined score closest to a perfect 200. Each choir also received an invitation to the Festival of Gold and Carnegie Hall in New York City. The String Orchestra received the Adjudicator Award for having an average score of 92 or higher and an invitation to the Festival of Gold. Along with these many ensemble awards, two students in the Women's Camerata received an individual Maestro Award from the judges for displaying excellent musical ability. These students were sophomore pianist, Lisa Zhao, who was as an accompaniment of the choir ensembles, and freshman Kennedy Burt for her solo in the Camerata's performance of "Colors of the Wind."
To top off an already amazing night, Bishop O'Connell also received the Festival Sweepstakes Award. This is awarded to a school that enters at least one choral ensemble, one instrumental ensemble, and a third ensemble of either discipline and accumulates a score closest to a perfect 300. The excitement of the students was uncontainable as they cheered loudly and broke into a chant of "O-C-O-N-N-E-L-L! O'Connell Knights, all right! 'Cause we really fight!" There was no denying that school spirit was alive and filled the arena.
"The success of the music trip to Chicago is a testament to the dedication and talent of our students, as well as the hard work and organization of the Fine Arts Boosters," said fine arts department chair, Mr. Timothy LaCrosse. "We are all incredibly proud of the students' outstanding performances and the recognition they received from the panel of judges, and at the same time, we couldn't be more grateful for the support of our booster organization."
On Sunday morning, before departing Chicago, the O'Connell group attended Mass at the historic Holy Name Cathedral where the pastor, Father Gregory Sakowicz, recognized the group and their achievements, with some of the students being asked to present the gifts at the Mass. It was a perfect way to cap off this unforgettable trip!