From the 1960s through the ’90s, Staples’ Orphenians sang in the Virgin Islands, Austria, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, the UK and the Czech Republic.
Nearly 2 decades ago — after his freshman year of high school — Luke Rosenberg’s chorus traveled from Michigan to Europe. The month-long trip made an indelible impression — and sparked a desire to become a choral music teacher.
Today, Rosenberg directs Staples High School’s choral program. So when the Orphenians were invited to Australia, he seized the chance to take the elite a cappella group on its greatest adventure yet.
This summer, his singers will spend 4 days in Sydney. They’ll join ensembles from around the world — of all ages — rehearsing with Grammy winner Craig Hella Johnson, conductor of the famous Conspirare ensemble.
The capstone is a performance under Johnson at the Sydney Opera House. Orphenians will sing an eclectic assortment of choral music — including the world premiere of a piece by Jake Runestad.
The group then travels to Cairns. They’ll visit the Great Barrier Reef, a wildlife park and rain forest before returning to Westport.
“We get invitations regularly,” Rosenberg says of his ensemble. “But this one stands out. Craig Hella Johnson is one of the most highly respected and passionate choral composers, arrangers and conductors in the world. People say singing with him is a spiritual experience.”
Providing that experience — and all the others involved in a trip like this — is Rosenberg’s goal. He does not expect every student to have the same reaction he did, years ago in Europe — “they won’t all become music teachers,” he jokes — but he does hope they’ll learn a bit more about the world, and themselves, through music.
Of course, taking a group of teenagers to Australia is not cheap. Orphenians are sponsoring a cabaret with Broadway star/Westporter Kelli O’Hara, and Broadway star/Staples alum Adam Kaplan. It’s already sold out.
There’s also a GoFundMe page (click here).
“06880” is “where Westport meets the world.” This summer, Orphenians are where Staples meets the Sydney Opera House.