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Draper Journal

From sea to shining sea, the Wildcat Chorus sings across America

Jun 05, 2018 01:37PM ● By Julie Slama

Willow Springs’ Wildcat Chorus took a break before starting out on a road trip around America during their spring concert. (Mary Pugh/Willow Springs Elementary)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

It was a journey around the United States for about 50 third-, fourth- and fifth-grade Willow Springs students. 

The journey came in the form of song as the Wildcat Chorus presented “The Great American Choral Road Trip,” launching from classics such as “America the Beautiful” and “Oh, Susanna!” and well-known ballads including “Shenandoah” to fun upbeat songs such as “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

The choir, which has returned after a five-year absence, is directed by parent Mary Pugh and accompanied by volunteer Barbara Johnson. 

“We honestly felt we needed to bring music in the school and when it was discussed at the PTA  meeting, I said, ‘I can do that,’” Pugh said.

This is the third program the Wildcat Chorus has performed, in addition to concerts at Halloween and for the winter holidays. 

The students began practicing before school on Fridays at the start of the school year, but took breaks in November and January. Students used the lyrics to practice on their own and sang along to songs on iTunes and YouTube, Pugh said.

“Many of these kids wouldn’t have had music in any other way,” she said. “We welcomed anyone who could come to have fun with music. It can bring light and joy in the world in a small way.”

Pugh said much of the patriotic music lent itself to their spring concert. 

“I thought it would be so fun to showcase different parts of the country sort of like a road trip. Some of the songs they may know and some they may not. For example, they all may know ‘Yankee Doodle,’ but not ‘Shenandoah.’ At the first, they weren’t sure they liked ‘Shenandoah,’ but after they learned it, they loved it,” she said.

The songs showcase the country’s different regions, including “Utah, We Love Thee,” as well as songs learned through the generations to modern day hits such as “City of Stars,” which featured five fifth-grade boys singing. There also was a guest soloist and ukulele performer, Wade Hansen, who sang with the choir a piece from the short film “Lava.” 

Pugh said she had small solos for students in “America the Beautiful” and in another student favorite, “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”

Fourth-grader Adam Henderson was a soloist, along with Callie Earnhart, for “Home on the Range.”

“I had to learn the first two lines of the third verse,” Adam said. “I signed up for choir because I like music and it’s fun singing with my friends.”

For Adam, this was his favorite concert. The show opener was “The Greatest Show,” which included top hats for all the performers as they marched onto stage. 

“So many of our students saw (The Greatest Showman), I thought we had to do it,” Pugh said. “The kids were so excited that we were performing it.” 

Pugh said there has been so much positive feedback she plans to continue the chorus next year. 

“I believe in the power of music,” she said. “It changes the world and lives.”