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Nature Coast Children's Chorale to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City

Savannah Kastrenakes, 11, in front, and top, left to right, Megan Berube, 15, Alexandra Ambrose, 15, and Lucas Altuz, 14, rehearse recently with the 28-member Nature Coast Children’s Chorale that will perform Sunday at Carnegie Hall in New York City. 

CAROL BALLARD | Special to the Times

Savannah Kastrenakes, 11, in front, and top, left to right, Megan Berube, 15, Alexandra Ambrose, 15, and Lucas Altuz, 14, rehearse recently with the 28-member Nature Coast Children’s Chorale that will perform Sunday at Carnegie Hall in New York City. 

SPRING HILL — A monumental blizzard in the Northeast will not stop a group of singers from Florida from making their long-awaited trip to perform at Carnegie Hall.

The 28 youngsters with the Nature Coast Children's Chorale and their adult chaperones are planning to fly out today and expect to be in New York City in time for rehearsals for their performance Sunday at the revered music hall.

That will be the reward for countless hours of hard work for the choristers, ages 9 to 17, who have been memorizing an hour of concert music with various rhythms, tempos and tones, with arpeggios, decrescendos and pianissmos, and the vocal score written in Latin.

The chorale will be singing the children's parts in the masterwork Carmina Burana along with a youth chorale from Columbia Grammar and Prep School of Columbia University.

Members also will join an adult choir of more than 250 voices with backing by a 50-piece orchestra. Directing will be Vance George, retired conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.

The community-based independent nonprofit Nature Coast chorale, launched in June 2008 by music teacher David Pletincks and his wife, Sandy, sent an audition CD to the production's sponsor, Distinguished Concerts International New York, and were selected for the stage.

The youngsters have been rehearsing as a group since December but have been studying and learning the score since fall, while listening to CDs of the contemporary epic composed by Carl Orff "so we'll know what the production is supposed to sound like," explained choralist Sarah Lescovec, 14, of Brooksville.

"It's beautiful. Memorizing it is hard. It's going to be hard but it's going to be fun,'' said the home-schooled student during a recent rehearsal break. "It'll be an accomplishment, like a reward for working very hard."

The second soprano, singing with a vocal instructor for two years, admitted, "The notes are higher than I've ever sung."

Christian Gonzalez, 11, an alto and sixth-grader at Powell Middle School, said: "One thing I really like is the Latin. It's all so challenging."

As for performing at Carnegie Hall, Gonzalez said, "I'm really excited about going to New York City. … My family is long involved in enjoying Broadway and music."

Thirteen-year-old Cori Svoboda of Wesley Chapel echoed Gonzalez, saying: "I can't wait because I haven't been to New York City before and I'll be with the best group of singers I've ever been with."

The student at Thomas E. Weightman Middle School in Wesley Chapel met Pletincks when he was directing the All-State Chorus, of which she was a second soprano singer. He invited her to join the Nature Coast Children's Chorale.

Pletincks has taught music for 12 years, and is now at Powell Middle School. He pulls the best from the singers, prompting their timing with snapping fingers, pausing to urge, "Enunciate. The phonetic pronunciation is … '' And in the throes of a forte, he stops the music and demands, "Is that all you've got?"

The chorale consists of some 60 members, but the New York performance is limited to youngsters whose voices have not yet changed.

The traveling singers have been raising funds since April for their trip, from $1,000 to $1,200 each depending on transportation and accommodation choices. They conducted a raffle supported by numerous businesses in Hernando and Pasco counties, held car washes, sold discount coupon booklets and performed concerts locally.

They'll be in New York for at least three days. Rehearsals there will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning with the Columbia Prep singers and finally with the full chorus and orchestra.

Beth Gray can be contacted at

Nature Coast Children's Chorale to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City 02/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 8:34pm]
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