Emma Jacot-Descombes traveled to Woodstock, CT on Wednesday, March 20th to participate in the New England Music Festival, working for 3 days with the prestigious, Dr. TJ Harper.  Dr. Harper is the Chair of the Providence College Department of Music, Associate Professor of Music, and director of Choral Activities at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island.

The New England Music Festival process begins for students and their teachers back in September, as they examine a list of music and make a selection that seems to fit the performing ability of the student.  Students work to prepare this selection of music, which they perform for a judge at a Solo and Ensemble Festival, which takes place in White River Junction, Vermont in December. When completed, the students’ performance ratings are used to select the highest achievers to form a 250-voice chorus.

These gifted singers are sent six pieces of difficult chorus music and spend hours preparing that music for the festival.  Each year a different community in the six New England states hosts the Festival, housing students in local homes, and providing space and an environment that is conducive to quality music making. Conductors of national and international stature are contracted to lead these students in rehearsal and in the performance.  The result is a high level of music making and a musical experience that will last a lifetime. (www.nemfa.org)

RLRS is one of approximately 80 different schools that participate in this festival, and only one of two that participate from Maine.

THE NEMFA TALE by Emma Jacot-Descombes


Once upon a time, there was an aspiring musician,

Who applied to competitions, and was granted a position.

Music was sent for the student to learn,

To then arrive at the festival, and rehearse them in turn.


The music rehearsing was rigorous and taxing,

though soon after we were granted some rest and relaxing.

But back to the rehearsal hall we were ushered the next day,

and confined to the theatre seats, not too far we should stray.


Dr. T.J. Harper, was he, the conductor that year,

we learned a whole new song, but he said: “Do not fear!”

Our “S”s were scattered, our vowels too wide,

and to the tenors, he said, “Woah! Those notes aren’t tied.”


“Cry Out And Shout” was the first song of choice,

Dr. Harper said we should have a strong and determined voice.

Then to “Weep, O Mine Eyes,” and “Laetatus Sum,”

and those songs sounded epic with the acoustics in that room.


Then to “Flight Song,” which he said sounded orange and pink,

synesthesia, he explained, a topic worthy to bethink.

“I hear songs in a color,” said he with a smile,

“Try singing ‘Flight Song’ in green.” A tone that is sure to beguile.


Next is “Jubilate Deo,” a song learned in just one sitting,

plus it’s purely in Latin, and the bass parts were ear-splitting.

It got better, however, after we rehearsed it a bunch,

“This song is definitely yellow,” he said, then released us to lunch.


Finally, it’s “My Song,” a worthy closing tune,

so rich with emotion, the final note rang out all the way to the moon.

A blue-purple feel, a galaxy song,

the words were so heartfelt, the harmonies so strong.


Our vowels were rounded, the “S’’s were snatched,

the songs were all memorized and the attire all matched.

On the stage we went, with our hearts we sang true,

and to the audience we introduced to a new point of view.


And then it was time for my friends to depart,

so we hugged and rejoiced and said “farewell”s from the heart.

The truest of friendships can be born out of song,

unfortunately NEMFA weekend isn’t that long.


I’ll miss the practice, the people, the songs, and the work,

but I’ll always have memories, in my mind they will lurk.

Alas, it is time for me to drive 6 hours to Maine,

Though friendships, responsibility, and experience I will gain.


The moral to this story is you should always take chances,

if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have reaped the reward of my musical advances.

NEMFA was great, but all good things end for a reason,

I’ll just have to make sure I get in next festival season.