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An image of the Greystone Singers performing with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra in February 2023. (Photo: SSO / Julie Isaac)

USask choirs ready for Carnegie Hall performance

Students and alumni of the Greystone Singers will perform in New York City on June 1


By Chris Putnam

Kylen Rioux will mark the end of her undergraduate music studies at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) in a way she never dreamed possible.

On June 1, Rioux and about 100 other USask students and alumni will have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

“I'm very, very excited. It feels a little surreal,” said Rioux, who will graduate from the USask College of Arts and Science with a Bachelor of Music (Music Education) degree three days after the event.

Jen Lang
Jennifer Lang is artistic director of the Greystone Singers and Aurora Voce. (Photo: Julie Isaac)

The concert is made possible by USask director of choral activities Dr. Jennifer Lang (PhD), who was chosen as a guest conductor for a 2024 performance series at Carnegie Hall.

“I gathered up the best singers in Saskatchewan that I could to take on the trip and share this experience with me,” Lang said.

Those singers: the members of the USask Greystone Singers and its alumni choir, Aurora Voce.

It will be the first time Lang or the USask choirs have performed at the legendary Manhattan concert venue.

“Who doesn't dream of performing on the stage of Carnegie Hall as a musician? Anyone who takes their craft seriously knows that this is the ultimate destination for a musical performance,” said Lang, an associate professor in the Department of Music and acting vice-dean academic of the College of Arts and Science.

Rioux was hanging out with other members of the Greystone Singers student choir when she first heard the news.

“We were all just like, ‘You're joking. You can't be serious.’ It was kind of just disbelief, but also this feeling of giddiness that we're going to do something that thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, dream to do. And it's here. It's at our fingertips and it's something that's going to come true. It was just insane,” Rioux said.

Kylen Rioux
Kylen Rioux, a member of the Greystone Singers, is graduating from USask with a BMus(MusEd) this spring. (Photo: submitted)

“I've always heard about what it means to be on the stage at Carnegie Hall and it’s one of those things (where) you’ve made it if you’ve done this. I don't know if that was something I ever thought would be possible for me until this happened.”

Lang also extended the invitation to the members of Aurora Voce, a choir for recent graduates of the Greystone Singers, and they jumped at the opportunity.

“I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Lang and her devotion to the meaning behind music. Her ability to extract genuine emotion and energy out of singers is why I will drop everything to be under her direction, always,” said Matthew Praksas (BMus’18, MMus’23), an Aurora Voce member and the librarian and outreach coordinator for the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

For Praksas, the performance will be an opportunity to reconnect with old friends from the Greystone Singers and to experience the other side of a concert at Carnegie Hall—a place that captivated him years ago when he visited as a high school student.

“I feel that being a part of a group singing on such a monumental stage will be a truly awesome experience. Of the countless musical giants that have stepped on that stage, the endless stories and memories that live in those walls, we get to be a part of that building’s history,” Praksas said.

The event will be an unforgettable capstone to Rioux’s studies at USask.

“The degree I chose … was really, really challenging at many points, but I'm just really grateful that I did it and that I'm here and then something like this can culminate my undergraduate degree.”

Matthew Praksas
Matthew Praksas is a member of the Aurora Voce choir. (Photo: Nicole Romanoff)

Lang and the choirs have been preparing all academic year for the concert with rehearsals and performance fundraisers. Additional funding came from USask’s Greystone Heritage Trust.

At the 8 pm concert on Carnegie Hall’s Perelman Stage, the choirs will perform Elaine Hagenberg’s Illuminare with the backing of the New England Symphonic Ensemble. Saskatoon audiences were treated to a preview of the performance at a successful joint concert with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra in February, an event that helped raise funds for the New York trip.

Many family members and friends of the chorus members are traveling to the United States to see the concert.

“It's overwhelming how many are coming to support the singers at this event, but then it's not surprising, because that's the Saskatchewan way. People rally behind our students and our alumni and they'll support them in whatever way they can,” said Lang.

The five-day visit to New York will be a whirlwind of rehearsals and other activities, including Broadway musicals, a reception with USask donors and alumni, and a post-concert cruise around Staten Island.

But nothing will compare to the main event at Carnegie Hall.

“It's going to shake the stage, I think,” said Rioux. 

USask has established a fund to support the choirs' trip to New York City. Visit this link to donate.

Together we will support and inspire students to succeed. We invite you to join by supporting current and future students' needs at USask.

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