By CAROL SOUTH
Special to the Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — Spring Break plans loom, so two choral groups are sharing their talents to raise money.
The Traverse City Central High School Chorale and Choral-Aires and the West Senior High School Choral-Aires ensemble each will head to Europe for a choral tour. The respective trips — Central to Estonia and Latvia, West to Prague and Budapest — provide opportunities for cultural, artistic and personal growth.
But getting there requires focus and funds — challenges students have tackled with creativity.
Central is sending 46 students on a nine-day adventure to two culturally rich Baltic countries in northern Europe. To help raise the $3,000 per-student tab, this month students offer Caroling Candy Grams to the community.
The 11-student quartets offer a variety of Christmas carols, with their repertoire including both secular and sacred songs. The idea for Christmas quartets grew out of the Choral-Aires tradition of singing Valentine's Day quartets.
"People like to hear the voices and how they blend," said Eva Nienhouse, a senior. "A cappella singing is not as common anymore, kind of a throwback, but it's very personable and it brightens people's days."
Students have performed so far for birthday parties, business gatherings, individuals, holiday dinners and church staffs. Caroling Candy Grams will take bookings through the end of the month.
West Senior High choral program just completed its 16th Annual Elizabethan Madrigal Feaste. Proceeds will help fund European choral tours, including this year's excursion.
The school's choral program also presented Spamalot in the fall as a 2013 trip fundraiser.
"We're also presenting Beauty and the Beast opening on March 1 for three weekends," added choral director Russ Larimer of the school's annual musical, where sold-out shows boost travel coffers.
Twenty students who will tour the Czech Republic and Hungary will sing in two different choral competitions during the 13-day tour.
"It will be fun to go with 19 of my closest friends, going around Europe and singing with them," said Aaron Mahoney, a senior.
Last spring, 80 students from West Senior High Chorale traveled to Spain, France and Italy for a singing tour; this year's smaller group will be more maneuverable.
"I'm excited to go as a smaller group, we're very tight-knit," said Kelsey King, a senior. "Singing with a smaller ensemble is a lot more fun because you have a bigger role in it."
Central's choral director Tamara Grove noted two highlights of her students' trip: a collaborative performance with the Riga Cathedral Choir, earned thanks to a recorded audition, and the chance to work with nationally renowned Estonian conductor Aarne Saluveer.
Students will also be immersed in the rich history of Estonia's "Singing Revolution," where voices were raised together for freedom and liberty against the Soviet Union.
Expanding students' horizons is a key to the trips.
"It is about making world connections, being exposed to other cultures, and, specifically in this case, experiencing why choral music is such a distinguished and celebrated art form internationally," Grove said.
To schedule a Caroling Candy Gram, contact Tamara Grove at 933-3571 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location Change: The West Senior High Holiday Choral Festival scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. has been moved to St. Francis Church. A freewill offering will benefit the Choral-Aires's upcoming trip.