The Student News Site of Green Level High School

The Gator's Eye

The Student News Site of Green Level High School

The Gator's Eye

The Student News Site of Green Level High School

The Gator's Eye

Green Level Chorus Takes Carnegie Hall

Our very own advanced chorus students performed the world premiere of Ola Gjeilo’s newest piece, Twilight Mass.
D. Wright
The Twilight Mass world premiere in Carnegie Hall. DCINY Production/Dan Wright Photography.

Last school year, the Green Level Chorus received an invitation to perform the world premiere of Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s newest piece, Twilight Mass. The cherry on top was that this premiere would take place in the famed Carnegie Hall, in New York City. 

The invitation came about due to Distinguished Concerts International New York, the music production company that Gjeilo is currently commissioned by, looking for choirs that had performed his music before. They stumbled upon The Gator’s Eye’s Winter Chorus Concert Preview, an article that gave an overview of what the GLHS Chorus Program’s 2022 Winter Concert would entail. It mentioned Bella Voce (the advanced treble choir) planning to perform Ola Gjeilo’s piece, Tundra. This article included the Green Level Chorus Instagram handle, leading DCINY to a video of Bella Voce rehearsing his song in the Arts Hallway. They liked what they heard, and invited all advanced GLHS choir students to perform his new, unreleased piece on November 13th in Carnegie Hall. They’d get to be one of only a few high school choirs to perform Twilight Mass alongside about twenty professional and collegiate choirs. 


Green Level’s choir director, Ms. Faust, accepted the invitation on behalf of thirty advanced choir students from Bella Voce and the Tenor Bass Choir. This means that these students, as well as Ms. Faust (who would perform alongside them), would be official artists in residence at Carnegie Hall. Carnegie Hall is one of the most prestigious music venues in the world and has hosted a plethora of the most excellent musicians of all time. The hall has featured everyone from Tchaikovsky to Billie Holiday to The Beatles, and the Green Level Chorus would now get to stand where they stood, and be among those great names forever.

Ola Gjeilo’s Twilight Mass

Twilight Mass is a choral symphony piece that Ola Gjeilo has been composing since last year. The piece has ten movements in total, so it’s not exactly just one song. It’s more like ten shorter songs that flow into one another, comprising a larger work with its own distinct soundscape and portrayed setting. Twilight Mass is based upon the sung pieces of a Traditional Latin Mass. Many movements of Gjeilo’s composition share names with the components of the traditional mass, such as Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Gjeilo incorporates the traditional melodic and rhythmic styles of these chants, while transforming them into an exhibition of his own artistry, musicality, and individuality as a composer.

The Green Level Chorus students, along with all of the other choirs invited to perform, received the music before its premiere in order to learn it in advance, meaning they’d have to rehearse it in secret. The sixty-six pages of choral music, all of the words in Latin, with no recordings ever produced of it, was initially intimidating to learn for the students. With the guidance of Ms. Faust, they were able to meet for rehearsals throughout the first few months of school and tackle the challenging piece. They even had a sticker chart to track each singer’s progress, encouraging each other to master each movement of the piece on Solfège syllables, and then words.

Taking Off

After anticipating this prestigious trip for an entire year, Ms. Faust and her thirty students departed from RDU at about 9:30 a.m. on Friday morning, ecstatic about their impending journey. With a shoutout from the flight attendants over their plane’s intercom, the trip had officially started off on the right foot. All students had their headphones on, listening over and over to the practice tracks of the many different movements of Twilight Mass. Student leaders Dhyana Pasupu and Shruthi Kethemakka were excitedly chronicling the choir’s whereabouts on the Green Level Chorus Instagram (@glevelchorus), posting videos of all of the choir members with smiles on their faces. The (not so) anonymously run @glchorusmemes Instagram account was also abuzz, starting to upload memes about the trip as soon as the students made it into the airport.

As soon as the students landed at LaGuardia Airport, they took the city by storm, traversing the action-packed Times Square. They toured Radio City Music Hall where they saw The Rockettes rehearsing their Christmas Spectacular, and even met one of the dancers. They then finished the night with dinner at Gayle’s Broadway Rose, a restaurant where talented servers on the brink of their big breaks perform songs from Broadway musicals to guests. Green Level Chorus had just arrived in New York City, and were already thrust into the vibrant performing arts scene.

“Being in this city, getting ready to perform in Carnegie Hall, going to Gayle’s, seeing Radio City,  it makes me love music even more. It’s so cool to see people so passionate about it, and to be around like-minded people in that way,” said Kennedy Riggins of Green Level’s Bella Voce choir.

New Faces

On Saturday, the students woke up bright and early to check out the Museum of Broadway, walking through immersive displays of the theatre scene throughout the years. They then made their way to their first official rehearsal for the Carnegie Hall performance, passing through the fall foliage of Central Park. It would take place in The New York Society for Ethical Culture, which boasted a dome-like ceiling, facilitating an incredible soundscape for the singers’ voices. There, the students met the other choirs, who hailed from all over the U.S., Canada, Poland, Germany, and France. The high school students found themselves to be a minority among the many collegiate and professional choirs full of seasoned adult singers. 

It was at this first rehearsal that the students would meet Jonathan Griffith, their conductor for the Carnegie Hall premiere. He immediately got to work, tasked with the difficult job of synthesizing twenty individual choirs into one, to perform a long and challenging piece that had never been performed before. Everyone was immediately blown away by his teaching and conducting styles; they were unconventional and shockingly effective. “It gave me more experience with a different conductor in a different setting, with lots of different choirs. Now, I’m more flexible with change,” said Cori Peterson of Green Level’s Bella Voce choir. Overall, Green Level Chorus students likened him to more of a tough-loving coach than a polished conductor, but he already had over one hundred singers whipped into shape after just one four-hour rehearsal.

Students were shocked and surprised to also see Ola Gjeilo for the first time at this rehearsal. The composer walked up onto the stage next to Griffith, with the humble demeanor of someone who didn’t have choirs from all over the world working to perfect a piece he’d crafted. He shyly and kindly thanked everyone for traveling to perform with him, and receded to the back of the room to listen in on the rehearsal.

Flux Capacitor

On Sunday, the students attended their second rehearsal, which would take place in Fordham University’s Pope Auditorium. The students could hear the piece coming together after what seemed like little practice time and were beginning to feel at home in the more professional setting. They heard the Soprano soloist for Twilight Mass, Diana McVey, for the first time, as she stunned everyone with the richness and beauty of her tone. They even got to see more of Ola Gjeilo, as he gave their conductor notes about what alterations the choir should make, and even played piano accompaniment for a few run-throughs. 

After a long rehearsal filled with preparation for singing in that famed hall, the students took some leisure time. They saw Back To The Future on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre, and were enamored with the music, theatrics, and comedy of the production. The show was wildly entertaining, and some students even got to meet the cast members.

The Big Day

Monday morning, on the day of their big performance, the students took up ice skating in Bryant Park. Through helping each other learn to balance on the ice, they continued to build their bond as a choir. Despite some falls, they persevered. They were further unified as they shared anticipation for what would be one of the most incredible experiences of their lives.

After their fun, they rested up and got ready for their dress rehearsal. The students excitedly adorned their concert attire—black dresses, black tuxedos, and meticulously done hair and makeup. This would be their first time in Carnegie Hall, and their first time singing on that stage in Stern Auditorium; the largest, most grand of the three that the hall boasts. They made their way on foot from their hotel, with the hall being only a block up the street. They didn’t have much time to process the reality of it all and were suddenly ushered into the Stage Door, and up the many flights of stairs to wait in the Orchestra Rooms. They got into formation with the other choirs and filed back down the stairs to enter onto the stage. It was surreal for all of the singers. You could hear a pin drop as the singers filed on, the only audible sound being gasps of awe. The gold-gilded molding, twinkling lights, and red velvet seats stunned everyone into near silence, and everyone couldn’t help but capture the moment in a photo. 

The orchestra was already in position, Griffith at his podium, and Gjeilo seated at the grand piano. Everyone knew that this was their last chance to get it absolutely perfect before the performance that night. The pressure was on, and Griffith was taking no nonsense. The choir and orchestra glided through the consecutive movements of Twilight Mass like never before, bringing Gjeilo himself to tears. The students were finding such a love for this piece as they heard it in all of its glory. “I think that Ola Gjeilo is an amazing composer, and he did so incredibly. Movement number four, Domine Deus, is definitely a banger. The tempo changing is so fun and exciting, and I love how it stands out from the others.” said Kennedy Riggins of Green Level’s Bella Voce choir. Green Level’s students were profoundly moved, but also ready to show the world what they could do. 

After taking a break at the hotel and making final adjustments to their appearances, they returned to Carnegie Hall at 6:45 p.m., their call time. They climbed up the stairs once more and waited again in the Orchestra Rooms. No one could believe that they were to perform where so many music legends had, but despite the shock, went through the motions of getting into formation. They listened through the speakers to the opening act that preceded theirs, a treble choir performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria. They filed down the steps once more and onto the stage. As the Twilight Mass singers stepped on, Ola Gjeilo was doing a Q&A with Griffith about his piece, speaking about what influenced him in his composing, and what his vision for the piece was. The audience was full of spectators, more than the Green Level students could have ever expected. 

The choir and orchestra waited patiently for Griffith to turn to them, and when he did, it was euphoria. Every musician followed his movements with astonishing synchronicity, singing and playing each note exactly as long, loud, and intense as Gjeilo had written. Gjeilo wowed the audience with his intricate piano playing, and all felt as though they were part of the most remarkable thing to ever occur. The stage was a mountain of interweaving and harmonious sounds, compelling the audience into a standing ovation when the final note resounded. Gjeilo and Griffith bowed, then the soloist, then all of the choir conductors. The singers filed off, and some students even spoke to Gjeilo upon their exit. Last glances at the grand auditorium were savored, and everyone went up the stairs to retrieve their belongings. Tears were falling, and the Green Level students made their way out of the hall and out into the crisp New York air. 

The families of students who had traveled to New York rejoiced with their children, and much time was spent hugging and taking pictures to commemorate such an awe-inspiring moment. For the students, the sky was the limit after that. Still feeling the adrenaline, the students made their way across the street to Redeye Grill for the reception dinner. DCINY had rented out the entire upscale restaurant, and students enjoyed fine dining as well as the chance to formally meet and thank Ola Gjeilo himself. Students waited in line to get his autograph and a photo with him, as well as speak to him personally. All were touched by how kind and soft-spoken he was, especially Ms. Faust, who jokingly expressed wanting to be his best friend. The students enjoyed their dinner while conversing about what a profound experience the performance was. 

Shivank Tiwari of Green Level’s Tenor/Bass Choir was especially feeling the weightlessness of a new perspective. “For me, it was like my debut, so I just could feel thousands of eyes on me. The stage lights were hot, so I could feel my body warming up, and I could feel my soul on fire. As soon as the first note resounded, I knew it was a perfect moment—one of those moments where you think ‘Nothing will be this good again,’” he preached.


The students departed from LaGuardia Airport at 12:30 p.m. the next day and were still ruminating on how the trip changed their lives. “I think looking back on this trip I’m gonna have so many memories about how fun it was. In regards to Carnegie, I’m gonna be so proud of myself for performing on such a big stage where all of these icons have. It’s something I can tell my grandchildren about, and is just really cool,” said Kennedy Riggins. 

When the students landed at home, the excitement hadn’t quite ended. The students were ecstatic to know that they’d be receiving a CD of the performance, and they could watch and hear themselves from a spectator’s perspective. What’s more is that their performance will be the official recording of Twilight Mass that gets put on streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and sheet music websites where music is purchased for choirs to perform, such as J. W. Pepper.

Shivank Tiwari’s thoughts on the profundity of what the students took part in sums up how impactful it truly was: “I’ve learned that new experiences in your life can take you to places where you didn’t think you could go. I’ve left this city with things I can carry on to other parts of my life, and feel as though what I’ve experienced on this trip is going to impact me for many years to come.”

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About the Contributor
R. Butler
R. Butler, Opinion Editor
Regan is a senior and this is her second year being part of the Gator's Eye. In her free time, she enjoys writing (of course), spending time with friends, and singing with her band and the Green Level Chorus. She likes reporting on interesting things going on at GLHS, as well as larger-scale issues and topics.