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Bemidji High School A Cappella Choir to perform at New York's Carnegie Hall in March 2023

It has been 20 years since the Bemidji High School A Cappella Choir took to the stage in Carnegie Hall as part of a concert series in New York City. Though they have made a few return trips to the Big Apple since 2002, this upcoming March will mark an official return to Carnegie Hall where the 45-member chorus will sing again.

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Bemidji High School Choir Director Christopher Fettig conducts the a cappella choir during a rehearsal on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in the BHS music room. The choir has been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York in March for the first time in 20 years.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — It has been 20 years since the Bemidji High School A Cappella Choir took to the stage in Carnegie Hall as part of a concert series in New York City.

Though they have made a few return trips to the Big Apple since 2002, this upcoming March will mark an official return to Carnegie Hall where the 45-member chorus will sing again.

As part of its 40th anniversary concert season, the choir was invited to Carnegie Hall by MidAmerica Productions — a group that brings together conductors, soloists and ensembles to appear at various New York venues.

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Memorabilia hangs on the wall of the Bemidji High School music room, including a plaque of the last time the a cappella choir was invited to Carnegie Hall in 2002.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

The choir will perform Ola Gjeilo’s “Sunrise Mass” alongside the New England Symphonic Ensemble and under the direction of conductor Bryson Mortensen, director of choral studies at Virginia Wesleyan University.

“The Bemidji A Cappella Choir received this invitation because of the high level and quality of musicianship demonstrated by the singers,” MidAmerica’s General Director Peter Tiboris said in a release.

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Alongside six other choirs across the United States, this proves to be a special opportunity for not only the singers but also for BHS Choir Director Christopher Fettig.

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Bemidji High School Choir Director Christopher Fettig conducts the a cappella choir during a rehearsal on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in the BHS music room.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“Ever since doing this the first time, I’ve been excited to go back and give the kids this experience,” Fettig said. “Our numbers are a little smaller after COVID, but the kids that have stuck through the program through those couple of tough years, I wanted to give them something special their senior year.”

BHS senior Aidan Larson noted his excitement to perform in New York following the music department’s trip to Washington D.C. this past spring and being able to take part in another big trip a second year in a row.

“To be able to do that last year, then for the choir to be invited to Carnegie Hall this year, is pretty special,” Larson said, “especially coming out of COVID because the last (couple of) years, we haven’t had any of that. I think it’s pretty cool.”

Senior choir member Helen Bartlett said she always dreamed of performing in Carnegie when she was a little girl and heard stories about her mother’s own experiences in New York.

Needless to say, she was “over-the-moon excited” the moment she found out her dream would come true in a few months' time.

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Members of the Bemidji High School a cappella choir rehearse on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in the BHS music room.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

“For years and years I’ve been thinking ‘that would be an amazing opportunity and I hope that one day in my life I’ll be able to do that,’” Bartlett recalled, “and finding out that I’m going to do that in high school was insane.”

The choir will spend five days and four nights in New York in preparation for the concert, which will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 11, 2023. The public can purchase tickets starting Monday, Dec. 12, by calling (212) 247-7800 or visiting www.carnegiehall.org.

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Bemidji High School Choir Director Christopher Fettig conducts the a cappella choir during a rehearsal on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, ahead of the choir’s winter concert set for Dec. 19.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Ending on a high note

Not only will this mark a memorable final trip for Bartlett, Larson and other senior choir members, but also for Fettig who is retiring after this school year.

“I think it’s pretty special for him that we get to do this,” Larson added. “It’s kind of the ‘top’ that he’s trying to go out with, the biggest achievement I think he’s ever had as a choir director.”

Bartlett shared similar sentiments, noting, “I just think this is the best possible way that Fettig could end his high school choir directing experience. He told us this was unlike anything he had ever done before, and the fact he gets to do this in his last year of teaching is really exciting. It’s just incredible.”

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Bemidji High School Choir Director Christopher Fettig conducts the a cappella choir during a rehearsal on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in the BHS music room.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Fettig shared that the Carnegie experience was something he wanted once more before he retired, and now he’s able to make that happen.

Prior to March, however, Fettig will have his hands full with preparations for a Dec. 19 winter concert and the choir’s February appearance at the Minnesota Music Educators Association Midwinter Clinic in Minneapolis.

“They have a lot of music to work on,” Fettig added with a laugh.

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Members of the Bemidji High School a cappella choir rehearse on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in the BHS music room.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Though he’ll soon be setting conducting his arms down, Fettig will carry with him the support of the Bemidji area for years to come.

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“Bemidji has been a great place, a great fit for me and we have excellent students and music in our community,” Fettig left off. “It’s been a good place to be.”

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Members of the Bemidji High School a cappella choir rehearse on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in the BHS music room.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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Members of the Bemidji High School a cappella choir rehearse on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in the BHS music room.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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