NSA girls join honor choir

Published 10:12 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Breanna Barbeau, Renee Lassen and LeeAnn Wilburn, members of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s choral program, practice for a coveted honor choir performance with instructor Toni Cotturone.

Three members of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s choral program have earned a rare chance to sing before members of the Virginia Music Instructors Association next month.

The trio, all seniors together, are the first NSA students to earn the honor.

LeeAnn Wilburn, Breanna Barbeau and Renee Lassen will join a 150- to 160-strong choir of students from across Virginia, at the association’s 2012 In-Service Conference, Nov. 15-17 at Hot Springs.

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“It’s a huge thing,” said academy Choral Director Toni Cotturone. “We compete with large public schools that have massive amounts of kids in their programs (and) also governor’s school students and magnet school students who spend a good portion of their day just on their art form.

“This is a remarkable year to be able to get these kids in … It’s the highest honor for the state.”

The girls were selected for the honor choir after auditioning last Saturday at Longwood University in Farmville.

At Hot Spings, in the mountains in the state’s west, the girls will perform “I Attempt From Love’s Sickness to Fly,” by 17th-century English composer Henry Purcell.

The delicate piece will require the girls to moderate their strong voices more than they may be used to, Cotturone said.

“It’s a Baroque piece, so it’s lighter in nature,” she said. “There is a lot of control going on of the voice so they can do it stylistically correct.”

There will also be a reading component where the girls will have 30 seconds to view eight measures they have never seen before, then be challenged to sing them correctly.

Cotturone and her students have been working hard to prepare — Lassen said they’ve been rehearsing at various times of the day “for the past month and a half, to help train us and get us ready.”

The girls are a mixture of alto and soprano. Wilburn, who first joined the choir in grade seven, said she was a soprano before becoming an alto in the 10th grade.

“I have always been a soprano and have pretty much been obsessed with choir since sixth grade,” Barbeau said.

Lassen said she has been taking voice lessons since the third grade and “loves singing.”

Barbeau added that the girls are looking forward to their experience in November. “We’re really excited about it,” she said.