Glen Cove High chorale to sing at White House

Members of the Glen Cove High School Select Chorale rehearse for their upcoming performance at the White House and talk about being selected for this honor. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (Nov. 21, 2013)

The award-winning Glen Cove High School Select Chorale is slated to sing at the White House next month -- and to say they are excited about the engagement is an understatement.

"Nothing compares to this," chorale director Edward Norris said Thursday.

The invitation to sing Christmas carols at the White House on Dec. 13 "is just a blessing for our choir, for our school," he said. "Everybody has rallied together to support this."


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"We're really all excited," said Heaven Guanco, 16, a junior who is a second-soprano. "We hope to see Obama and Michelle Obama," she said of the president and first lady.

"It's not every day you can go to the White House," added Christina Orioli, 17, a senior and first-soprano. "I still can't believe it. I'm so excited. My goal is to get a selfie with Obama, actually. I could dream."

Norris said the group has been "fortunate" over the years, winning music festival competitions and performing at prestigious music events and venues, including Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.

"Last year, we sang at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and at the American Choral Directors Convention in Rochester two years ago." The chorale won first place among choirs at the North American Music Festival in Virginia Beach two years ago, said Norris, who also is the school district's team leader of music for grades 6-12.

Plans for the 49-member chorale's trip to Washington, D.C., from Dec. 11 through Dec. 14 include caroling at various landmarks, including possibly in front of the U.S. Capitol. Funding is coming from chorale fundraising, students and the district.

Norris said he began thinking about seeking a White House performance for the chorale a few years ago, after watching a televised performance of the Central Islip High School choir, "one of the most fantastic high school choirs on Long Island," singing there.

"I said, 'Man, I'd like to do that.' "

After student auditions last spring, he said, "I knew this one was the right group, because of the talent level and the character of the children."

But he was unsure how to apply. "I reached out to our mayor, Ralph Suozzi, because I had no idea how to go about it." Suozzi suggested he contact the office of Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).

"Steve Israel and his staff contacted the White House on our behalf and got us the application," Norris said. "Without them it would not have been possible." He said he sent the application to the White House in August, complete with recordings of the chorale.

Weeks passed -- no response.

"From that point, I didn't hear from them until a week ago," Norris said. He had assumed the choir wasn't selected, had told his students that, and simply "moved on."

Then he received a congratulatory email from the White House.

"My mouth just dropped," Norris said. "I was so proud of what my kids accomplished. Not just this group, but all that was done in the past."

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