Cabarrus high school choral festival premieres commissioned work

At this year’s Cabarrus County Schools High School All-County Choral Festival, the 143-member festival choir premiered a commissioned piece by Kenney Potter, director of choral activities and music education at Wingate University, the festival clinician.

The Nov. 14-15 festival was at Jay M. Robinson High School. Potter led the students in a choral clinic that Friday, rehearsals on Saturday and a free, public concert 4 p.m. Saturday.

Choral directors from the seven traditional high schools in the district selected 10th- through 12th-grade students from their advanced ensembles to participate.

Students learned the repertoire in advance, then rehearsed together the week before the festival, so they could arrive knowing the pieces. That way, Potter could focus on vocal technique, musicality and creating a polished performance, as opposed to teaching notes and rhythms.

The concert also featured a showcase in which each advanced ensemble from Northwest Cabarrus, Jay M. Robinson, Central Cabarrus and Hickory Ridge high schools gave its own performance.

After the showcase, the Wingate University Singers, directed by Potter, performed South African folksongs, an area of special interest for Potter.

The festival choir also performed Potter’s commissioned work, “Veni Sancte Spiritu” (“Come, Holy Spirit”), plus a piece for men’s choir, a piece for women’s choir; and two pieces for the full choir.

The Wingate University Singers joined the choir for the final piece, “Shumayela,” from a collection of South African folk songs.

Potter holds degrees in music education from Florida State University and Portland State University and a doctorate in choral conducting from UNC Greensboro.

Before Wingate, Potter taught middle and high school chorus for nine years in the N.C. public schools. He helped establish Cantare, the changing/changed voice ensemble of the Charlotte Children’s Choir, which he conducted for six years.

He founded the Wingate University Middle School Choral Celebration to encourage excellence in choral music for the middle school singer.

Potter is choir director at First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gastonia. Jennifer Smith and Scott Verner