Meet VocalPoint

A high school choir group performing at a professional choir level

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Meet VocalPoint

VocalPoint preforming

VocalPoint preforming "Old Time Rock and Roll" at Keep Playin that Rockin' Roll at Broadway Performance Hall

Anuj Gosalia

VocalPoint preforming "Old Time Rock and Roll" at Keep Playin that Rockin' Roll at Broadway Performance Hall

Anuj Gosalia

Anuj Gosalia

VocalPoint preforming "Old Time Rock and Roll" at Keep Playin that Rockin' Roll at Broadway Performance Hall

Tess Petrillo, Staff Reporter

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VocalPoint is a respected non-profit vocal organization that recruits high school students across the metropolitan area. Known for being a regular guest at Benaroya Hall, students in Vocalpoint have also had the privilege of singing part of the soundtrack of various movies such as Millions, Bad Santa 2 and Let Me In.

“Most schools have jazz choirs or vocal ensembles, but VocalPoint is something entirely different,” Group Director, Joe Crnko said, “First difference is our repertoire– Vocalpoint sings rock music. And to be a little more specific, Vocalpoint performs rock repertoire that is vocal-harmony focused.  We also focus on small-ensemble singing, with the specific goal of emulating the original artists for our chosen songs. This means there is the absolute expectation that every member be capable of carrying their harmony entirely by themselves.”

While it is a choir made up of high schoolers, VocalPoint is still expected to deliver a professional level performance. Some audience members at their last show, Keep Playing that Rock and Roll, had been coming to watch the group perform for over ten years.

“It’s important to deliver a high-quality show,” VocalPoint mom Kathleen Coe said. “It’s not just to sell seats for those performances–but to maintain the reputation of the organization. That’s what keeps people coming back.”

This aspect of VocalPoint makes the preparation process very intense and significant to the outcome of the show. Singers have to adjust to the style or tone of the song when performing it.

Junior Ella Davis describes this aspect of the preparation. “What I find most challenging in Vocalpoint is being able to go beyond just learning songs as notes on a page and actually find meaning in them and convey that through both physical and vocal performance,” Davis said.

For each song, the singer not only has to learn the melody and notes, but also has to learn how convey the same style as the original artist. Senior Liam Sternberg, a performer who has been singing for Vocalpoint for three years, elaborates on the importance of this feature of the Vocalpoint preparation.

“The biggest challenge varies from song to song,” Sternberg said, “Analyzing the song is super important for finding your role and how to fill that. Many songs are stylistically difficult in the sense that you have to change how you sing for that song specifically.”

Since the style and execution of the various songs are so unique, performers have to put in large amounts of time to practice the song if they want to put on a good show. If something goes wrong before the show, just like any organization in show-business, Vocalpoint members also have to be able to adapt to unexpected situations such as a performer getting sick and not being able to perform.

Blanchet freshman Addie Gill has been working with Vocalpoint for two years, but this part of the procedure is still challenging.“The preparation of the performance before the show is always so stressful because we change lots of things last minute,” Gill said.

The outcome of the show is also affected by the ability of the high school performers to learn music quickly and efficiently. With the possibility of something going wrong, it’s critical to make sure that the songs they are preparing will be sung well.

Vocalpoint coach Almodine Thompson has been working for the Northwest Choirs for about two years, and was a performer for Vocalpoint when she was in high school.

“In my experience, the toughest part of performance prep is time management,” Thompson said. “We give kids the skills to learn music efficiently, but sometimes it’s hard to accurately predict how long it’s going to be to get things really nailed down to the point that we’re ready to put it on stage.”

In order to make sure the show will run smoothly, the performers meet multiple times the week before the performance to rehearse.

“The tech week before the show was intense,” Coe said, “There were 29 hours of rehearsals in five days.”

Junior Ilona Groenink illustrates this part of the process as particularly stressful, “We have this thing called Hell Week before every show,” she said. “We work out all the things needed to make the show run smooth, like mic changes, show order, who will be talking to introduce the show and other stuff like that.”

On Oct. 31, VocalPoint spent its first post-show rehearsal breaking down Keep Playing that Rock and Roll bit by bit to examine what worked and what didn’t, with the focus of the discussion examining what it takes to make a better production.

“To be really good, you have to do more than just know your stuff. You have to be intentional,”Crnko said to the group.

The show was the first of many for 11 out of 43 members, so the group had a lot to go over from costume decisions to stage design, even discussing the lighting choices for certain songs in the show for over an hour of rehearsal time. With the main issue of focus being individual responsibility, and not assuming your problems will be taken care of by someone else.

“We consider our rehearsal time precious and do not tolerate it being wasted,” Crnko said, “I have two professional musicians who help me coach Vocalpoint, and we all push the kids quite hard.  They’re held to a high performance standard and commitment expectation – this is something that is implicit in being in the group.”

The group even meddled with the idea of more rehearsals on top of their 29 hours of rehearsal in five days before the show, and compared the show’s progress to that of previous concerts—such as their 1950’s show performed in October of 2017—in order to see what has worked and what hasn’t.

Once the discussion wrapped up, the group began critically reviewing last year’s Christmas repertoire through selected live recordings from Benaroya Hall before diving into this season’s material. Keeping in mind the differences between choral and rock performance, the group took about 10 minutes to analyze each recording and caught several mistakes in the previous year’s performance—such as pronunciation, rhythm, resinence and dynamics.

“If you don’t have any idea what sound you’re trying to make, what sound are you going to make?… Whatever comes out of your mouth.” Crnko said to the group.

Being a local choral group for over 30 years, Vocalpoint has definitely left its mark on Seattle, with many loyal fans attending shows each year.

“It’s hard, demanding work, but also tremendous fun. We just finished our Fall production last week, and the show was killer!” Said Crnko. “A large portion of our audience has been coming to Vocalpoint shows for years—there is something powerful about having an audience stand up and cheer for you, especially when you know they’re not your moms and dads.”

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