LaRue grad melds chorus talents

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Task: Creating cohesive sound in four hours

By Ron Benningfield

LaRue County High School alumnus Steve Skaggs directed the Fourth District Treble Chorus, 200 students from the 11-county district who performed at Meade County High School auditorium Sept. 26.

Skaggs, who like his wife, Shirley, is a 1971 LCHS graduate, called his first experience as the director an honor.

“Their sound was marvelous,” he said. “Some of the things I thought I would have to stress such as the flat vowel sounds we Kentuckians can be known for were actually almost non-existent. That allowed us to work on more intricate details of the choral sound, musical precision and expressiveness.”

He gave much of the credit for the students’ readiness to their teachers and to themselves.

“The students began arriving at about 11 a.m. with the songs memorized,” he said.

They were in place on the risers by noon and rehearsed until 3:30 with three breaks. They presented the free concert at 4 p.m.

As Skaggs melded the groups into one unit, working on their breathing and enunciation skills, he also selected music meant to be enjoyable, yet widen their musical horizons.

The first piece, “Gloria Deo” was a setting of the traditional Latin text of the angel’s singing to shepherds’ from Luke 2.

Other selections included “When I Lay Me Down to Sleep” based on the traditional and familiar English prayer; patriotic songs, a traditional Jewish folk song, which the students sang in Hebrew; and the finale — the students’ and audience’s favorite, “Get on Board This Train” medley.

“The students had a favorite, but they gave equal attention and effort to the songs that were not their favorite,” Skaggs said. “It is important to sing familiar songs that are fun like the patriotic piece and the spiritual. But it is also important to expose the children to songs from other cultures that advances Fourth District experience beyond just learning about music and singing.”

Both Abraham Lincoln Elementary music teacher Penny Akers and Hodgenville Elementary’s Patrick Walsh had praise for Skaggs, who directed the 25-minute performance to an appreciative audience of 600.

“Steve did a great job relating to the students and interpreting the music,” Akers said.

Walsh added, “Mr. Skaggs was good at motivating the students and keeping their attention during a long rehearsal. He was very professional with the students and held them to a high level of expectation.”

Skaggs holds a Bachelor of Music from Campbellsville Univer­sity and a Master of Church Music from The Southern Baptist Theo­logical Seminary with a second emphasis in Church Music Drama. He is a member of American Choral Director’s Association and Choristers Guild.

He has served as minister of music at Immanuel Baptist Church in Paducah about seven years.

Students participating from HES included Alexis Green, Austin Hawkins, Autumn Bailey, Catelin Nie­mynski, Chasity Bryant, Cidney Neagle, Emily Turner, Ethan Harry, Kayla Fitts, Mackenzie Uhl, Nick Cobb, Rachel Fantasia, Savannah Ratliff, Sophe Pepper and Zoe Webb.

ALES participants were Marisa Cecil, Madison Eads, Sara Jo Estes, Kalli Flanders, Mary Gearon, Kaylee Gum, Erika Halbach, Breea Kirk­pat­rick, Chloe Price and Autumn Riggs.