Members reflect on hitting stage with pop artist Lorde at iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards
By Laura Lennie
Stoney Creek News (Jul 11, 2017)
School has been out for summer since June 30.
But Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School’s BR Xpression vocal ensemble is still reeling after its final number of the season.
Forty of the choir’s members performed live on stage with pop artist Lorde during the grand finale of the iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards on June 18 in Toronto. They sang back up for the singer-songwriter in her debut performance of Perfect Places from her second album, Melodrama.
“It’s still hard to believe that our performance with Lorde even happened … having her so close to all of us on stage was really something,” said 17-year-old Michaela Kelly, who just graduated from the school. “It was my last show with a group I’ve been a part of and held close to my heart for the past four years, and it’s one I’ll never forget.”
Eighteen-year-old Madelyn Cryer, who also just graduated, said the performance was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“Lorde was the sweetest person; she was all smiles and very interactive with us,” she said. “The days leading up to the show were long and quite exhausting, but I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
The BR Xpression was chosen for the gig from a pool of competitors.
Bishop Ryan arts head and vocal ensemble director David Tabone submitted numerous music videos and pictures of the choir after a parent discovered that Universal Music Group was looking for a contemporary group to back up Lorde.
Tabone said selecting only 40 BR Xpression members was hard, considering the vocal ensemble is composed of more than 200 Grade 9 to 12 students.
“I chose soloists because we had to present students who had the most confidence and experience,” he said, adding Lorde’s team was very specific in what they were looking for. “I also had to reach out to some alumni to join us, so that our ages reflected Lorde’s needs. About eight alumni came back to perform with us.”
Tabone said in addition to hitting the stage with Lorde, the BR Xpression received VIP treatment.
The vocal ensemble members felt like superstars, he said.
“It was an amazing experience overall,” Tabone said. “Lorde’s music director loved us and we hope to get a call for her return tour in March at the Air Canada Centre. We also made great contacts through Bell Media and Universal Music Group and they’re going to keep my contact information should something come up in the future.”
The BR Xpression was well rehearsed before taking the stage at the MMVAs.
The vocal ensemble had just returned from the international Heritage Festival on May 26 in New York City, where it earned 10 Maestro Awards for Outstanding Soloists.
The choir went to the festival after holding music concerts for the community on May 16 at Carmen’s Banquet Centre and April 10 to 12 at the Bishop Ryan Theatre and Performing Arts Centre, where they performed for more than 6,000 students and over 1,500 guests.
Tabone said the group had an amazing run this season.
“We’re losing a great group of students this year from our front line soloists and music council — I call them the dream team,” he said. “That being said, we still have some amazing talent in the group and some awesome students who have registered for our music program. Our plans are to travel to the festival in April in Nashville.”
Tabone formed the BR Xpression in 2000 to give students with a passion for music an opportunity to take their talents outside the classroom.
The vocal ensemble has gone on to perform at a number of international Heritage Festivals and win a variety of awards. The choir is the most popular group at the school with more than 3,000 alumni.
Tabone, who also co-directs a rock camp each summer at Bishop Ryan for children ages six to 14, said music always has been popular in schools.
“It really is on the music directors to generate the interest,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that each school has amazing student talent, but often it goes unnoticed. It’s up to the music teachers at every school to make things happen and make them fun, and the talent will show up every time.”
For more information on the rock camp at Bishop Ryan, visit reflexionlivemusic.com.