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James Wilson performs a solo while backed by the BR Xpression vocal ensemble last month at the international Heritage Festival in Nashville, Tenn. The group earned 11 awards, including gold in the Contemporary Choir category, at the event.

BR Xpression leaves international Heritage Festival on high note

Vocal ensemble earns 11 awards in Nashville

By Laura Lennie, News Staff

Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School’s BR Xpression vocal ensemble continues to prove its prowess behind the mic.

The ensemble composed of more than 200 members from grades nine to 12 recently earned 11 awards at the international Heritage Festival in Nashville, Tenn.

Group honours included a gold medal in the Contemporary Choir category, the Spirit of Nashville Award that is given to the school that best represents its city or state and the Adjudicator’s Trophy, which is handed out for outstanding vocal performance.

Students Katrina Almeida, Brandon Bizior, Jesse Bower, Niki Cubelic, Kaitlyn Mossuto, Brandon Pacheco and Nancy Vincic also garnered Maestro awards for outstanding solos, while music director Dave Tabone scored the Director’s Award.

“I am really proud of our accomplishments this year,” Tabone said. “I am very proud mostly because of our success as recipients of the spirit award, which is only awarded to one group at the festival. I was also extremely proud of our members who took home Maestro awards, as there were only 12 of those given out to students at the event.”

Tabone said earning the Director’s Award was “pretty cool” too.

“It was especially cool because all of my students gave me a standing ovation,” he said. “Three directors were nominated by festival staff and I won, so that was pretty awesome. However, it has always been about the kids and music education, so being recognized was not my focus, but it was a nice achievement nonetheless.”

The international Heritage Festival features schools from all over North America and includes many types of ensembles, from show and traditional choirs to concert, jazz and marching bands, with more than 2,500 students hitting the stage.

The BR Xpression vocal ensemble was the only Canadian group at the event.

The students performed a medley of hits from past Grammy award shows as part of “A Night at the Grammy’s” theme.

Hits included songs by Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga and Guns N’ Roses.

Tabone said the students’ energy and lots of rehearsal were the keys to the ensemble’s success on stage.

“They have learned to be true stage entertainers and step it up at every performance,” he said. “We just recently performed 11 sold out shows in our new theatre and performing arts centre at Bishop Ryan, which provided us with the best possible preparation for the festival in Nashville.”

Tabone established the BR Xpression vocal ensemble about 15 years ago and has been the group’s music director ever since.

“Our first trip was with 45 students and we went to Washington, D.C.,” he said. “We have now grown to have a minimum of 200 students each year.”

The ensemble has performed and won gold and silver medals at various events in Myrtle Beach, Boston, Chicago, Washington, Nashville and New York City.

Tabone said the BR Xpression vocal ensemble is an optional group that requires commitment and dedication.

He forms an elected music council each year, which chooses a theme that the students will love to perform.

“We include effect lighting, professional sound and all the bells and whistles that make our performances a big deal,” he said. “The kids absolutely live the dream when performing on stage. We strive to make every show professional from the first note to the final bows.”

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