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Choral festival harmonizes hearts

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SOULFUL SERENADE: The Peru High School auditorium packed219 members of the Peru Community Schools Choral Festival’s collective choirs, including Blair Pointe, Cardinal, a 9-person instrumental band, PJHS, PHS, PHS Swing and the Community Chorus. They lifted up the audience with the fun tune, “I Want You Back,” by The Jackson 5.
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UP CLOSE: There were so many folks in the last two numbers during Tuesday night’sPeru Community Schools’ Choral Festival, it was hard to get them into a close-up photo together. Here, a few members of the Community Choir appear to be mixed in with Peru High School students.

BY CAROLINE EGGERS - ceggers@perutribune.com

It was billed as Peru Community Schools’ Choral Festival.

But it was more of a community celebration. 

Students, parents and citizens packed the Peru High School auditorium on Tuesday to hear performances by the Blair Pointe Choir, Cardinal Choir, a 9-person band, PJHS Choir, PHS Choir, the Community Chorus – and two pieces from all of them put together.

Blair Pointe kicked off the singing with Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 positive-vibes-only tune, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

The youngsters went even a little more old-school with their take on the “bop bob shoo-op” scats of The Starliters’ “Peppermint Twist.” Writers Joey Dee and Henry Glover regularly performed in the nightclub, The Peppermint Lounge, and the “twist” was all the craze of the time – and is often credited as being the first mass-learned dance move.

PJHS had a darker performance tone, singing the somewhat eerie “Sound of Silence,” which band member Garfunkel once described as “people unable to love each other.”

They followed that up with a show tune from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. In the story, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is one friend’s attempt to comfort a widowed wife after her husband commits suicide following a failed robbery attempt.

The high school students sung a medley from the musical, “Wicked,” which is a retelling of the “The Wizard of Oz” set in high school.

In between sets, the conductor rearranged the students for each individual piece. A few students and adults sung solos.

As a new addition this year, the Community Choir joined the festival, and received enormous applause after their performance of “This is Me,” from the film “The Greatest Showman.”

For the second to last song of the evening, all 219 members of the collective choirs packed the stage with the 9-person band. They belted out the cheerful lyrics of “I Want You Back,” created by The Jackson 5 and sung by a young Michael Jackson.

They only had one rehearsal with the whole group, according to Peru High School music teacher and choral director Jason Gornto.

It didn’t show.

The choirs concluded by creating a large circle around the audience to sing “Lord Bless You and Keep You,” which Gornto said he has seen bring tears to peoples’ eyes in years past.

Gornto thanked the parents and guardians of the kids for allowing them to participate in the musical community. “The time you’re investing in your children will pay off down the road,” Gornto said.

He also thanked Peru Community Schools for hosting the spectacle. “The administration’s support to fine arts is second to none,” Gornto said.