NORTHAMPTON TOWNSHIP >> During these unprecedented times, music educators are seeking alternative opportunities to provide students with musical experiences that will enrich their school year and compensate for traditional performances that they are unable to do at this time.
As the high school choir director at Council Rock High School South, Corey Axler seeks to keep his students doing what they love: singing and performing music, all while staying within the strict health and safety guidelines mandated by the school district and department of health.
Beginning last spring, Axler recorded and published several virtual choir projects that involved students performing and recording themselves singing pieces, with Axler later piecing the videos together to create complete performances for viewing online.
For the 2020-2021 school year, Axler sought to provide his students with an even more enriching musical experience. He reached out to Broadway singer Liz Callaway who agreed to collaborate with the group on a piece for the holidays and conduct a virtual Q & A session, where she engaged with the students, answering questions about her music career and working on Broadway.
“My students are struggling to find joy and happiness in a very turbulent time,” said Axler, “and I felt a project like this would lift their spirits and voices.”
The result is an acapella version of “Merry Christmas Darling” arranged by Axler especially for Callaway and his students.
“It’s been an absolute joy to work with these students,” said Callaway. “They are so fortunate to be able to sing at a time when many schools in our country are not able to, and they sing so beautifully!”
Rehearsals for the piece began virtually in September and the vocal tracks were all individually recorded by the students at home on their phones or computers. Axler combined the parts together using audio and video editing software and sent the combined recording to Callaway, who recorded her final solo track for the piece.
After in-person learning began at Council Rock School District, Axler and the students began recording a video, featuring senior choir members, Callaway, and the entire group, to accompany the completed vocals. The end result is a beautiful collaboration between the CR South Choir and Liz Callaway intended to raise spirits for the holiday season.
“Being a part of this choir during this time has truly been amazing this year,” wrote Blake Fiadino, a CR South choir senior. “I think we took for granted all of the opportunities we had before COVID, so getting to sing with this talented group gives me something to look forward to every week.”
An online link to the completed music video can be found here: https://youtu.be/m2c1NuikCW0
About Liz Callaway
Tony nominee and Emmy winner Liz Callaway made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. She has gone on to star in Baby, Miss Saigon, The Look of Love, The Three Musketeers, and for 5 years appeared as Grizabella in Cats. Off-Broadway appearances include The Spitfire Grill (Drama Desk nomination), No Way to Treat a Lady, Marry Me a Little and Brownstone. Liz sang the Academy Award-nominated song "Journey to the Past" in the animated feature Anastasia. Other film work includes Jasmine in the two Aladdin sequels, The Swan Princess, and The Rewrite with Hugh Grant. Her extensive concert and symphony career has included appearances in London, Paris, Iceland, Vietnam, Australia, China and nearly every major city in the U.S. She performs regularly with her sister Ann Hampton Callaway, as well as composer Stephen Schwartz, and has had the great pleasure of singing with Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams and the legendary Johnny Mathis. Liz has seven solo recordings including The Essential Liz Callaway, and has released a string of singles including the recent "The Morning After".