Grand Junction choir to perform at Carnegie Hall

In a small rehearsal room, on the quiet Mesa State College campus, a special rehearsal took place Thursday.

Nearly 30 people, who are either a college choir member or member of the Western Colorado Chorale, spent four hours practicing in preparation for a Jan. 18 concert in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Their voices will combine with those of nearly 150 other people from around North America in a performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Mass in C Major, or “Coronation.”

The man responsible for blending the approximately 175 voices together in song is Mesa State’s own Monte Atkinson. Atkinson is the reason local singers from Grand Junction, Delta and Montrose have been invited to one of the most famous performance venues in the world.

Two years ago, Atkinson conducted a similar type of concert at Carnegie Hall. The response from event organizers and the New England Symphonic Ensemble was so positive that members of the New England symphony literally stood up in their seats to applaud Atkinson’s musicality, said Mesa State senior Jayme Mazon, who performed in New York in 2008.

Atkinson’s professional reputation prompted event organizers from MidAmerica Productions to invite Atkinson and any singers he wanted to bring with him back to New York City.

“Dr. Atkinson and his excellent choirs received this invitation because of their superior quality and high-level musicianship,” said David Thye, principal associate conductor for MidAmerica Productions.

Atkinson is director of choral activities at Mesa State as well as the director and conductor of the Western Colorado Chorale.

Teressa Winslow, 41, missed the performance at Carnegie Hall two years ago. The soprano in the Western Colorado Chorale wasn’t going to miss this year’s trip.

“It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said.

The local men, women and teenagers will spend five days and four nights in New York. Once they arrive today, they will rehearse with the other singers on two separate occasions in the city during the next several days. But all 175 will have only one 30-minute dress rehearsal inside Carnegie Hall before Jan. 18, Mazon said.

Mazon said security is tight at the venue, and taking pictures is not allowed inside Carnegie Hall.

But the security didn’t bother her two years ago, and it doesn’t bother her now.

“There’s no way to describe Carnegie Hall, other than you walk in and your jaw drops to the floor,” Mazon said.


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