Penticton choir headed to the Big Apple

The 17-member choir invited by composer Joseph Martin

A local church choir is heading to New York City to play Carnegie Hall.

“If you’re a musician or any kind of singer, this is it,” said Shayla Sipilä Willmot, choir director of the Our Redemeer Lutheran Church Choir.

The 17-member choir, Wilmot has directed for the past seven years, found out in early April they were the only choir to receive an invitation, opposed to auditioning, for a spot in the New York premier of composer Joseph Martin’s The Winter Rose. The Winter Rose is is part of Distinguished Concerts International New York City (DCINY).

And the group has talent and YouTube to thank for the invitation.

“It’s funny because as a composer I started putting the composers name on YouTube. My choir sung many, many, many of my compositions and then I started putting every anthem onto YouTube. We do an awful lot of Joseph Martin’s compositions. He is one of my preferred composers when choosing music for my choir,” she explained.

“When they were looking for choirs they Googled Joseph Martin and choirs and they came upon my YouTube posts because I always acknowledge the composer. And then they contacted the church.”

The church secretary wasn’t comfortable providing Wilmot’s contact information so she suggested they email the church and she would pass it along.

“I got this incredible letter from New York. I though OK, what’s this about? You get a lot of stuff that you really can’t trust. I thought, this really doesn’t sound real. I contacted them back and before you know it we had an invitation to bring my choir to New York.”

“The power of YouTube, right?” When she told the choir a few days later she was met with disbelief.

“They were just rolling their eyes. ‘When’s the punchline,’” she said with a laugh. “So, I had to explain how this all came to be and it was for real … and everybody just raised out of their seats about 10-feet.”

The Penticton choir will be one of several from around the world participating in the premier on Nov. 26. The choir will spend five days and four nights in New York preparing for the concert.

“The Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Choir received this invitation because of the quality and high level of musicianship demonstrated by the singers as well as the exceptional quality of their audition recording,” Dr. Jonathan Griffith, artistic director and principal conductor for DCINY stated in a press release.

Joseph Martin, is from North Carolina and earned his Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance at Furman University in Greenville, SC. He’s recognized throughout the U.S. and Canada for his many choral compositions, over 1,200 and counting. His composition “Pieta” was recently honored with an award from the John Ness Beck Foundation. In 2008 he was inducted as a National Patron of the Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity.

“Everything just falls into place. It’s like there is a design. This is a huge opportunity, an opportunity of a lifetime as a choir and not only that but also to help put penticton on a world stage,” she said.

It’s estimated with flights, accommodations and meals it will cost the 17-member choir and Wilmot about $45,000 for the entire trip.

The choir is raising money now through a Gofundme campaign and the donations from the spring concert will go towards the trip.

There have also been a few corporate sponsors and individuals who have stepped up.

“Everyone has been really great and we’re really grateful,” she said.

The spring concert takes place May 27 at Our Redemeer Lutheran Church (1370 Church St.) at 7 p.m. All are welcome and there will also be a silent auction.

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