Richmond Heights High School’s singers hits right notes in Manhattan competition–Andy Attina (2013)

For the second straight year the Richmond Heights High School Choir blew away the competition during the Music Festival Competition, being named the Grand Champion Winners of the Big Apple Classic Choral Music Festival in New York City.

The choir performed April 27 at the competition that was held over two days at the College of Staten Island. It competed in six categories, earning a first-place superior rating in five: Concert Choir, Women’s Ensemble, Large Men’s Ensemble, Special Ensemble Madrigal Choir and Gospel Choir. In the category of Small Men’s Ensemble Sextet it earned a second-place rating.

Senior Tim Lowe received one of only two solo trophies given in the entire competition for his performance of “The Longest Time” and “Rock-A-My Soul.”

“The entire trip was exciting, enthralling and vigorous and to come back grand champions put the icing on the cake for us. It shows Richmond Heights kids are talented and can be put up against anybody and succeed,” said choral director, Anita Caswell.

The competition she spoke of included ten schools, which came from areas of Boston, St. Louis, South Carolina, New Jersey and more.

After being named grand champions of last year’s festival in Virginia Beach, Va., Caswell said this year’s choir had to compete against different competition and at a higher level.

Judging in the festival were representatives from Long Island College, the New York Opera Company and Rutgers University. The latter was overly impressed extending Caswell and her choir a special invitation.

“Their choral director invited us to come to Rutgers to perform during next year’s school term. They want us to come and show how a public school choir should look and sound,” said Caswell.

In addition to the competition, the students enjoyed other festivities and sightseeing adventures in the city.

They visited the Statue of Liberty, where, because of the lasting effects of Hurricane Sandy, they weren’t able to get off the ferry, but did sing the “Star Spangled Banner” on the boat at the shore.

They also toured Carnegie Hall and got to sing on its main stage. The visit was arranged by a former student of Caswell’s at Richmond Heights, Evan Fein, who is a doctoral candidate at Juilliard Performing Arts School. It was paid for by the Tender Hearts Crusade from Queens, which is organization that Obadiah Baker, a friend of Caswell’s from Richmond Heights Christian Assembly, is connected with.

At Long Island’s Zion Cathedral Church the choir performed for a women’s conference. Caswell said they were received beautifully.

Maybe most exciting for the students though was a trip to Broadway to see the musical “Wicked.”

“They were so glad to see it because we do so many musicals at the school.” Caswell said. “They all hugged me and thanked me for taking them. It was the highlight for me as well.”

This year’s choir includes 27 seniors but Caswell is not concerned about replacing their talents. Last year she said she had at least 20 seniors as well. She credits the longevity of the students staying in the choir program and wanting to learn under her guidance for the continued success the choirs have each year at the school.

“Everybody has been asking how we can top this next year but we still have room for improvement and we got a lot of suggestions from the judges,” Caswell said.