ConVal students from all 11 schools perform at choir concert

Patrick Cogan directs the Great Brook Choir.

Patrick Cogan directs the Great Brook Choir. STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

The ConVal gym was full of students from all 11 ConVal schools and their families Tuesday night at the District Choir Concert. 

The ConVal gym was full of students from all 11 ConVal schools and their families Tuesday night at the District Choir Concert.  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

The SMS Kazoo Choir gets ready to perform. 

The SMS Kazoo Choir gets ready to perform.  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

The SMS and Great Brook choirs wait to perform. 

The SMS and Great Brook choirs wait to perform.  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

Brian Moore, left, and accompanist Mary Ann Fleming with the CVHS Concert Choir perform “Touch the Sky” from “Brave.” 

Brian Moore, left, and accompanist Mary Ann Fleming with the CVHS Concert Choir perform “Touch the Sky” from “Brave.”  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

The PES Singers watch the show. 

The PES Singers watch the show.  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

The Great Brook Singers, top, with red scarves, and the SMS Select Choir, lower bleachers. 

The Great Brook Singers, top, with red scarves, and the SMS Select Choir, lower bleachers.  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

The 250 singers from ConVal’s 11 schools sing “Carry the Light,” by Andy Beck, in the grand finale. 

The 250 singers from ConVal’s 11 schools sing “Carry the Light,” by Andy Beck, in the grand finale.  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

The SMS Kazoo Choir performs a “kazoo concerto.” 

The SMS Kazoo Choir performs a “kazoo concerto.”  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

By JESSECA TIMMONS

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript 

Published: 03-21-2024 8:33 AM

Modified: 03-28-2024 4:33 PM


Patrick R. Cogan, music director at Great Brook School, said that after COVID, the ConVal district’s music teachers came together to try to figure out how to rebuild the music program.

“When COVID happened, the music departments were completely shut down. Singing and playing instruments – they involve close contact,  and really, swapping spit, so we were hit the hardest. We were nonexistent. Our last concert at Great Brook was December 2019, and  first concert back was December 2022. We had a huge gap; my fifth-graders had their first concert in 2019, and they did not have another concert until they were in eighth grade,” Cogan said. 

One result of that effort was on stage Tuesday, when more than 250 students from ConVal’s 11 schools performed together for the first time in the District Choir Concert Tuesday night at ConVal High School.

The concert was organized by Cogan and fellow ConVal music teachers Elizabeth Fortin, Elora Harvey, Brian Moore, Jacqueline Neilssen and Hannah Petrick in honor of Music in Our Schools Month in March. 

The choirs performing included the ConVal High School Concert Choir, the SMS Kazoo Choir, the Peterborough Elementary School Singers, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade choir from South Middle School, the ConVal HS Treble Clefs, the SMS Select Choir, the CVHS Select Choir and the Great Brook School Singers. 

On March 12, ConVal hosted the District Band Concert, with middle- and high-school students  performing together.

In 2022, Cogan and the district’s other music directors began to brainstorm ways to rebuild the music program in each school and across the district, in order to foster interest and excitement among the younger children who had missed two years of performances.

“We decided we really needed to celebrate Music in Our Schools Month, and to celebrate music in general. Music, art and PE are always first to get cut in the budget. So we started to think about what could do. Parents love seeing the kids perform. The problem is space; at Great Brook we don’t have a lot of parking. We thought about rotating from school to school, but the only place we could all fit is ConVal,” Cogan said. 

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In 2023, the first District Choir Concert included groups from Great Brook, SMS, ConVal and a group of fourth-graders from PES. The event was such a success the music directors decided to make it an annual event, and to expand to all the elementary schools. 

“We have our fourth-graders, who are 9- and 10-year-olds, singing with these really serious high school singers, and the older kids just take them under their wings. The little ones are in awe, seeing what the older kids can do, what they are capable of,” Cogan said. “It’s a way for us to  really build back our program. We see vertical growth in their development. ” 

The ConVal music directors started planning this week’s concert nearly a year ago, and met over the summer and throughout the year, sharing music and ideas.

“Last year, the concert was the night of the blizzard. This year, (the band concert) was the day of the elections,” Cogan said. “Next year, who knows?”

The night’s performances included a medley of Disney songs by the ConVal Concert Choir, a “kazoo concerto” by the SMS Kazoo Choir, and traditional Scottish and South African songs from the middle school choirs.

For the concert’s finale, every choir returned to the front of the gym to perform“Carry the Light” by Andy Beck together. 

“If no one had been sick, we would have had 284 kids here performing together,” said Fortin, teacher of music and choral ensembles at South Meadow Middle School. “It’s really amazing.”