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Sixth grade singers treated to visit by music composer

Filed in Archive by on December 6, 2016

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For 10 years, when Katie Daly – a chorus teacher at Bethlehem Central Middle School — would select music for the upcoming school year she would inevitably choose a piece by composer Amy F. Bernon, a writer of music popular among youth choirs and a favorite of Mrs. Daly.

In doing so, Daly probably never expected the composer herself would be watching her lead her sixth grade chorus through one of Bernon’s songs. Yet that’s just what happened on Friday, December 2, when Bernon traveled to Delmar from her home in Connecticut after connecting with the Bethlehem teacher through an old friend.

“We were rehearsing one of Amy Bernon’s songs for our upcoming concert and I was talking to the students about her work as a composer,” said Daly. “Afterwards, one of my students, Aaron Felberbaum, came to me and said ‘you know, she’s my aunt.’”

It turns out that while not related, Bernon is indeed a very close friend of Aaron’s mother, Nancy Felberbaum. The two attended college and were roommates at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. Felberbaum arranged the middle school visit.

During Bernon’s visit with the sixth grade chorus, the composer not only listened to the students perform, she provided many words of kindness and encouragement, helpful advice, and even joined the group for their vocal warmups.

“I was told this was a fabulous group,” Bernon told members of the chorus, who were gathered at the front of the school’s auditorium. “When I first heard you I thought wait, this must be an eighth grade group. I swear I thought that. You have such a big, beautiful sound.”

The chorus performed three songs for Bernon and Nancy Felberbaum, who accompanied her friend to the middle school. The songs included Bernon’s own Winterlight, which the group will perform at its upcoming concert. After each song, Bernon spoke for a few minutes to the group pointing out areas of strength and places for improvement.

“This song sounds great. You know the parts where you were in separate voicings…what I loved is that there was energy throughout,” said Bernon, who showed the students some breathing techniques and proper ways to form their words when singing.

The group will perform Winterlight along with other selections on Tuesday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at the middle school.

Watch the Grade 6 chorus rehearse Winterlight under the direction of Mrs. Daly: