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‘Sense of sisterhood’

Engineering professor fulfils lifetime dream to sing at Carnegie Hall

Campus and Community

By Jackey Locke

Since she was a teenager, Dr. Janna Rosales dreamed of singing in famed Carnegie Hall.

This past March, her dream came true.

Dr. Rosales is a visiting assistant professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and a member of the choir, Les Ms., an all-women’s choir based in St. John’s and directed by Dr. Valerie Long.

NYC bound

Les Ms. is well-known for its engaging performance style and for the annual fundraising it does in support of local organizations, such as the H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation.

In addition to Dr. Rosales, many of the singers are Memorial graduates, with a combined 46 degrees from the School of Music, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Science and Faculty of Business Administration.

As part of Carnegie Hall’s International Women’s Day celebrations this year, Les Ms. was invited to sing as part of a massed choir of 260 women. Dr. Rosales was one of 38 women who travelled to New York City to perform for 2,000 people.

International Women's Day was honoured by a massed women's choir performing on March 17, 2019, at Carnegie Hall.
International Women’s Day was honoured by a massed women’s choir performing on March 17 at Carnegie Hall.
Photo: Submitted

“It was everything I dreamed it would be,” said Dr. Rosales. “The acoustics were amazing. It felt awesome to know I was on the same stage as some of the greatest singers and musicians of all time. It was so empowering and really gratifying.”

The choir was given six pieces to prepare a year in advance. The songs weren’t the typical music style the choir is accustomed to — jazz, pop, musicals and gospel music — so they used the time wisely.

“The six pieces for Carnegie Hall were a mix of sacred, classical and contemporary choral pieces. They were challenging for us because we don’t often sing in that style and there were a lot of tricky bits to it. There is a joke among musicians that goes: ‘How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!’ and that’s what we did.”

Only Canadian choir

Their hard work paid off. So much so that the women’s performance stood out to Dr. Nancy Menk, the massed choir conductor.

“As the only Canadian choir invited to participate in this event, we wanted to represent our country well,” said Dr. Rosales.

“We had worked so hard to make the most of how Dr. Menk wanted to interpret the music. We wore Maple Leaf scarves to identify ourselves in the rehearsals and Dr. Menk noticed that the ladies in the Maple Leaf scarves were very attentive. At the end she went out of her way to thank our director.”

It was a good thing, too, as everything happened very quickly once they arrived in New York City. And even though the experience was short, Dr. Rosales says it was sweet.

“It was very emotional to think about everything it took for us to get there – the practising, fundraising, juggling work and home life. I felt so great when I was there. I was present and grounded and I enjoyed every moment.”

‘Sense of community’

The choir also arranged a concert of their own in New York City, performing at Planet Hollywood in Times Square for friends and family. A Come from Away cast member who is friends with a number of the Les Ms. choir attended, as well as some Memorial School of Music alumni who live in the Big Apple.

Dr. Rosales says the experience is something Les Ms. won’t forget anytime soon.

“Being part of a choir is as much about sharing a sense of community as it is about sharing great music. There is a real sense of sisterhood in the choir and we’re very grateful to our family, friends and communities for helping so many of us realize a lifelong dream.”

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