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West Valley City Journal

High school choirs unite in patriotic program for Veterans Day

Nov 07, 2018 04:15PM ● By Jana Klopsch

A high school choir sings a medley of songs representing all the branches of the military. (Utah National Guard)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

The annual Utah National Guard Veteran’s Day Concert, in its 63rd year, is celebrating a special anniversary. This year’s event commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

“We’ll be highlighting a few vignettes of what World War I was, how we prepared for it, how we got through it and how it ended—basically a history lesson on WWI,” said Maj. David Gibb, public affairs officer for the Utah National Guard.

In addition to audio-video presentations, Brigadier General Thomas Fisher, land component commander for UNG, will be the guest speaker.

The winners of the Utah PTA’s essay contest, “Why I am Proud of my Veteran!” will be announced. Three students, who have an immediate family member currently or previously serving in the military, will be recognized and receive a cash prize. 

Utah PTA Military Family Specialist Kathy Allred said the essays reflect the challenges military children bravely face as well as their pride in their family member’s service. 

The most powerful part of the evening is the music provided by the 23rd Army Band and nearly 700 students from the combined choirs of eight Granite District high school choirs.

“The highlight of the program is the music,” said Gibb. 

Ben Taylor, a senior in Taylorsville High School’s concert choir, participated in the event last year and looks forward to this year’s performance. He said singing “God Bless America” together was his favorite moment.

“When everyone at the very end all comes in—all the choirs—you just get that feeling,” he said.

THS junior Serina Taylor said even the two rehearsals leading up to the performance have been moving.

“Because we’re singing patriotic songs, I feel like it’s more powerful than just a choir concert,” she said. 

Mark Pearce, music curriculum specialist for Granite District, said the program provides an opportunity for students from different schools to come together in cooperation instead of competition.

“We have so much competition between schools with sports,” he said. “This is one chance for them to cooperate and sing together, rather than against each other.”

Sierra Lukens, a senior at THS, said she had never sung with such a big choir when she participated in last year’s performance. She was touched to see the number of veterans and their families who were recognized for their service and was glad to honor them with her talent.

“It’s my way to show appreciation for their service,” she said.

Pearce believes being part of the event instills a sense of patriotism that students don’t often get to experience.

“They are exposed to a sense of national pride and patriotism that comes from the great patriotic music that’s been written,” he said.

Norman Wendell, the previous conductor of the 23rd Army Band, was also the choir director at Taylorsville High School. He was the one who initially invited the high school choirs to participate in the annual celebration. Current THS choir director Leah Tarrant said when she took over the high school choir 21 years ago, she continued the tradition.

Tarrant, a recipient of a Granite Education Foundation Excel Award, believes participating in choir benefits students and engages them in an alternative style of learning. 

“It gives them a break to just release some emotions,” she said. “They get some release from the rigor of core classes and it gives them a chance to rejuvenate.”

Ben, a member of concert choir and Madrigals, said he has learned a lot about music from his choir classes, but his favorite part is the relationships he has formed with his choir peers.

“Everyone in choir loves each other—there’s no cliques or anything,” he said. “It’s just a place you can go to be happy.” 

The event, which takes place on November 10 at 7 p.m. at the Temple Square Tabernacle, is free to the community, but seating is limited. Overflow seating will be available in the nearby Assembly Hall for the 90-minute program.