Choral Festival

Concert features students', community members' voices

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Brandon Hollihan, choral music director at Whetstone High School and conductor of the Clintonville Community Choir, leads a practice March 24 at the school. Hollihan is the driving force behind the revival of the Choral Festival, which will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, April 4, at Whetstone.

About 200 voices -- some belonging to children, others to more seasoned folks -- will be lifted in song Friday, April 4, in the auditorium of Whetstone High School.

Brandon Hollihan, in his first year as choral music director at the school and the new conductor of the Clintonville Community Choir, is reviving a tradition that takes place every two years.

The Choral Festival, featuring singers from not only the Whetstone Vocal Ensemble and Clintonville Community Choir, but also students from Clinton, Colerain, Oakland Park Alternative and Weinland Park elementary schools, will get underway at 7 p.m.

Admission is free.

"We want to fill the auditorium," Hollihan said. "We want to have 800 people see 200 students perform."

The Northwest Side resident, who spent the first two years of his teaching career as an instrumental music instructor at Beechcroft High School, said the program is being finalized, but those attending the performance will be treated to renditions of such songs as Friend Like Me, from the animated Disney Studios feature Aladdin, and the Simon and Garfunkel classic Bridge Over Troubled Water.

The concert will close with all the singers joining together, accompanied, Hollihan hopes, by a violinist and drummer, to perform Hope for Resolution, a staple choral work composed by Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory in 1996.

"We're going to go out with a bang," Hollihan said. "It's very, very exciting."

The performers will range in age from 9 or 10 years old to people in their 70s, he added.

Hollihan, 31, became conductor of the Clintonville Community Choir at the start of the 2013-14 season.

He succeeded, by coincidence, another Brandon.

Brandon L. Moss took over as conductor of the group in early 2013 after founder Tom Maxwell stepped down.

Hollihan has a bachelor's degree in vocal performance from the University of Notre Dame and a master's degree in voice and choral conducting from Ohio State University.

"Now I'm more conductor than singer," Hollihan said.

"As long as I can perform, I can scratch that itch."

The teacher said he wants to grow and expand the choral program at Whetstone and keep the Choral Festival going in the community on a biennial basis.

"I think a two-year cycle is the way to go so that it stays fresh," Hollihan said.

"It keeps us from getting burned out and also it helps rotate the elementary schools that participate."