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SMC choirs recognized in holiday competition

Katie Kohler | Wednesday, January 16, 2008

For a few moments, members of the Saint Mary’s Women’s Choir and Madrigal Singers had their primetime television debut as winners of the NBC competition “Clash of the Choirs.”

Both choirs were featured on Dec. 17 as part of the four-night competition.

Choir director and Music Department chair Nancy Menk heard about the competition through a choral Listserv and asked her choirs if they wanted to participate. The competition was open to any choir, from five to 500 singers, Menk said.

“We had to choose from four or five pieces to sing, and we already had a couple of them prepared once I heard about it, so we were all ready to go,” she said.

The Women’s Choir performed “Amazing Grace” and the Madrigal singers sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Each of the choirs was featured in the national Holiday Challenge competition and both were recognized as two of the 12 winning choirs across the nation.

The “Clash of the Choirs” live show featured five celebrity choir directors – Nick Lachey, Patti LaBelle, Blake Shelton, Kelly Rowland and Michael Bolton.

The directors then traveled to their hometowns to create a choir to compete live on the program for the title of “America’s Best Choir.” The viewers at home judged the choirs.

Team Lachey, from Cincinnati, won the competition and $250,000 to go toward The Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati.

The Saint Mary’s choirs were not part of the live competition, Menk said. The Holiday Challenge was a taped contest. The winning Saint Mary’s choirs were featured in promos that ran during the broadcast.

“If you blinked, you would have missed it, but it was exciting to be on T.V.,” Menk said.

The recordings could be viewed on the NBC Web site, which is where most of the alumnae and friends of the College saw the performances.

“Last time I checked, there were almost 3,000 hits for the Women’s Choir,” Menk said. “I also got a lot of e-mails from alums.”

Of those promos on the Web site, three were featured each night for a few seconds on the live show.

In an e-mail to Menk and the College, Lewis de Dios, associate producer of comedy/on-air promotion at NBC said, “Your performance of Amazing Grace was incredibly inspired and beautiful.”

The contest was fairly simple, even though they didn’t know what to expect, Menk said.

“We knew the music already, so we made a tape using one of the students’ hand-held video cameras in the Church of Loretto, wore casual clothes and memorized the piece,” she said.

“We just wore casual clothes and tried to make it appealing.” Menk was notified shortly thereafter that their tape would be posted on the Web site. The Women’s Choir consists of 37 students and tours nationally every other year. They appeared at Carnegie Hall in 1999, 2001 and 2005. They have also recorded four CDs since 1997.