Members of Prince Albert youth choir to perform at Carnegie Hall in 2024

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The Big Noise Youth Choir performed at the Prince Albert Optimist Club Winter Wonderland on Saturday to thank the Optimists for help in getting members to Carnegie Hall in May 2024.

Big Noise Youth Choir thanked Optimist Club with a special performance on Saturday

The Big Noise Youth Choir has been together for nearly a year and now some members have the opportunity of a lifetime.

Eight members of the Choir will be performing as part of a larger choir at Carnegie Hall in New York City in May. All eight members had to audition individually.

To thank the Prince Albert Optimist Club for all of their support to get them there, the Choir performed at the Optimist Winter Wonderland on Saturday afternoon.

Lauren Lohneis, director of the Big Noise Youth Choir, said some members of the choir didn’t want to audition because of financial challenges. She told members they would find ways to help them get there.

The choir approached several organizations and held fundraisers like selling Canadian Tire gift cards. 

“We approached the Optimist Club and they sponsored some of our participation in the Carnegie Hall performance,” Lohneis explained. “We knew this was coming up and we wanted to give back to them and their organization. They invited us to come and sing and that was an easy yes.”

The choir will do a three-day residency in Carnegie Mall beginning on May 29 before the big concert on June 1.

The chance to perform at Carnegie Hall came about because Lohneis is an alumnus of the University of Saskatchewan Greystone Singers. The current director, Jennifer Lang, also has an alumni choir called Aurora Voce of which Lohneis is a member.

“It was about a year ago I got an e-mail from her about this Carnegie Hall opportunity for current Greystone Singers and Aurora Voce members and after I picked my jaw up off the floor and realized it was a year and a half away I started making plans to take part in it myself,” Lohneis explained.

She explained that the choir would need 100 singers and auditions were opened but Lohneis and other members made the cut without auditioning. She then found a way to have Big Noise members audition.

“First I got my sister on board—she used to be in Greystone Singers—and then I went, ‘hang on.’ I believe my exact words were ‘I have a bunch of very good teenagers. Can they audition?’” Lohneis remembered.

They could audition as long as they were high school students and were accompanied by an adult to New York City. In the end, nine Big Noise members made the cut, but eight members will be attending as part of the choir. It’s a dream come true for Lohneis, whose sister is also in the choir.

“(It’s a) total bucket list item as well to go to Carnegie Hall and then to be able to go as a musician and a performer myself, but then now to also share that with my sister and to share that with my students, like, what a cool experience,” Lohneis said.

Big Noise Youth Choir is less than a year old and currently has less than 20 members, but has steadily grown this year. Lohneis said she saw the talent in members of the Broadway North Theatre Company and her modus operandi as a teacher is to try to give students opportunities.

She teaches middle school band at Ecole Vickers and encourages students to audition for honour choirs or take on challenging solos at the Music Festival.

“I like to try to just put the opportunities out there for them and encourage them to take part in that,” Lohneis said.

Lohneis recorded all auditions for the choir members, meaning the same songs drifted through the rafters of her house day after day. However, she said it was worth it.

“We sang that song a whole bunch of times at my house,” Lohneis said. “It is just giving them that opportunity to be able to take part in a (performance) like this and a lot of them just jumped right on it. They’re singing in a different language for their audition. They’re learning new music, what an incredible opportunity.”

Two members of Big Noise who will be making the trip to New York are Sam Malenfant, who is in Grade 12 at St. Mary and Alex Rensberry who is in Grade 11 at Carlton.

Malenfant said that like anyone who grows up in musical theatre, he has dreamt of playing at Carnegie Hall. The chance to do it with Greystone Singers and alumni is amazing.

“It’s wild,” Malenfant said. “I never thought it would happen. I’m so grateful to have that opportunity and to be accepted into the choir.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The Big Noise Youth Choir travelled singing Christmas Carols around Gateway Mall on Saturday. The Big Noise Youth Choir performed at the Prince Albert Optimist Club Winter Wonderland on Saturday to thank the Optimists for help in getting members to Carnegie Hall in May 2024.

Both Malenfant and Rensberry were surprised to make the cut to join the large choir

“When I heard I was like, ‘why me?’” Rensberry said.

Rensberry explained that even when you know you are talented, you second guess yourself.

“It’s crazy because when I auditioned, I didn’t expect to get in and then I did,” he said.

Even rehearsals for the performance have been daunting for the Big Noise members.

“There have been rehearsals at the University of Saskatchewan with Doctor Lang, and we walk in and there’s all these adults there who have these masters degrees and everything,” Malenfant said. “They’re super professional and we’re just high schoolers that made into this.”

Both Rensberry and Malenfant were hand-picked by Lohneis to join the Big Noise Youth Choir. Both had high praise for the way she teaches.

“She knows music. It’s like it’s opening doors. She can easily just read the key piece of music and teach it. She’s incredible and working with her is a dream come true,” Malenfant said.

“Coming from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and the next you know we’re going to.

New York City to perform at a historical landmark in New York, it’s crazy.”

Malenfant and Rensberry both also thanked the Optimist Club for the opportunity.

“They have done a lot for us,” Malenfant said. “They’re making us hoodies. They gave us a donation to help us get there.”

The Choir had a large crowd in attendance on Saturday at Winter Wonderland. To conclude the performance, the choir rode around the Gateway Mall on the train from Winter Wonderland singing Christmas Carols.