Lakewood Ranch Herald

Braden River High chorus planning for trip to Big Apple in May

MANATEE -- Braden River High School students hope to be singing in Lincoln Center in New York City in May.

The 37-member River Rhapsody Chorus, part of the full 170-member Pirate chorus which has developed a strong following under director Kerrie Couchois, has been invited to participate in a performance of John Rutter's "Requiem" at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall in New York City on Monday, May 27, 2013, Couchois announced.

"For us, this is the most significant event we have ever had," said Couchois, a Bradenton Christian School graduate who began directing the Pirate chorus in 2007.

The Braden River chorus will join student choir members from around the nation and will be led by conductor Milburn Price.

The Braden River singers will spend five days and four nights in New York with nine to 10 hours in rehears

als and the rest of the time left to explore the city, Couchois said.

The invitation came after Price, dean emeritus of the School of Performing Arts at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and interim director of chorus activities at Stetson University, heard Braden River sing during a 2011 local honors program he led.

"They are so good and so moving that all I do is cry when I hear them," Pirate parent Pam Ferrara said Friday of the Braden River chorus, which has begun planning to raise roughly $55,000, or about $1,500 per student, for the trip.

Manatee High, under highly regarded choir director Tommy Jomisko, was also invited to New York for the Requiem concert but has decided not to accept the invitation this year, concert officials said.

The New York trip is just the latest event in a run of success that Couchois has had with these students, said chorus mom and fan Christy Walters, whose daughter, Caity, 16, is a member of River Rhapsody.

"I think the success of the choir has a lot to do with Kerrie and her absolute love for these kids," Walters said. "The kids themselves also truly care about each other. The other thing that is amazing about the Braden River chorus is that the kids are across the spectrum, a really diverse group."

Although the Braden River High choir's first formal concert isn't until 7 p.m. Dec. 13 in the Pirate auditorium, the singers themselves and fans of the chorus are already assembling a silent auction for that night as well as other fundraisers during the year in order to earn the funds to make the trip.

Choir members are also working on sponsorship letters to send to businesses.

"I'm incredibly excited about what I know will be a really cool experience," said River Rhapsody member Nathan Evens. "I imagine it will be amazing, something I couldn't say with words. I can't imagine performing in a place so acoustically sound."

"I think it's great that we're going to New York," said choir member Ford Ferrara, 16, whose voice is characterized as a bass 1. "When I joined this chorus I didn't know it would be a greater experience than anything I ever expected. Our teacher, Ms. Couchois, demands that our vowels have to be exactly pure. In class, we work on songs, polish up each part. If something is rough, Ms. Couchois gets on it. She doesn't wait until the last minute."

On the first day of school this year, Couchois passed out scores of the Requiem and played a CD of the piece, performed by the Cambridge University choir.

"There was so much excitement in the room the students could hardly contain themselves," Couchois said.

Choir officials think it will be a major challenge for all 37 students to raise the $1,500 they need for the trip. Some, like Evens, have already taken part-time jobs just to raise the money.

"We can use any community support we can muster," Pam Ferrara said.

Those wishing to contribute to the trip may send a check to Braden River High School, 6545 State Road 70 E., Bradenton, FL 34203. Indicate in the memo portion of the check that it's for the chorus trip to New York. Couchois can be also reached at school at 941-751-8230, ext. 2180 or at

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686 or tweet @RichardDymond