Reviews of Homer’s annual Mass Choir performance passed from director Mark Robinson, friends, families and audience members; “emotional,” “moving,” “powerful,” “blew me away.” Perhaps just as important as the musical performance was Homer’s outstanding professionalism, which Dr. Peter, the guest conductor, recognized as one of Homer students’ defining features.
Each high school performed two songs independently, except for Nikiski and Seward who combined their choirs. Kenai, who hosted this festival, also broke the trend by singing three songs with orchestral accompaniment, an ordeal that lasted nearly thirty minutes and bordered on the excessive. Skyview’s Director Kent Peterson commented on Homer’s performance. “I always look forward to the Homer choir performance. Mr. Robinson does a great job preparing the choir and they always sound great.” Vernel Schneider, Soldotna’s director, agreed, “I heard only a small part of the Homer performance. What I did hear was excellent.”
This year, there were eight soloists, four of which were from Homer. Everyone, students and directors alike, seemed to agree that Dr. Peter had a sound method of picking soloists. Joey Bishop, one of the soloists from Skyview, said, “At first, during the auditions, I was so over whelmed and I couldn’t perform the piece well, but Dr. Peter was able to see past that apparently. When I was preforming on stage during the concert, I wasn’t that nervous and was able to focus on singing and having fun.”
Duncan Brewer, a student from Kenai, who soloed in “The Water is Wide”, gave his impression of Dr. Peter, “The guest conductor was the best I have ever had at a choir event in Alaska. I really liked him because he was calm, knew our limits as a choir and did not try to use weird techniques to get us to sound good. He was simply a great conductor.” Lucas Schneider, who soloed with Duncan agreed, “He’s never over the top and screaming or shouting- very focused and knows what he’s doing.”
Few of the KPBSD directors had worked with Dr. Peter before. “I know very little about him except what I learned at the festival. He seems to be a great individual and certainly a talented and effective clinician and director. I enjoyed his sense of humor and his ability to portray that to the group and to handle their response,” Vernel Schneider said.
Director, Mr. Robinson reminded his students not to develop an attitude, “Walk our walk, don’t talk it,” he said at the end of the discussion. His emphasis on maintaining humility, along with strong musicianship has developed a choir that is professional, musical, and respectful.