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HART HITS HIGH NOTES CHOIR GOES TO HAWAII, WINS HONORS.

Byline: Carol Rock Staff Writer

NEWHALL - They sing, they dance, they emote from the Hart - and they win a lot of trophies.

Their latest haul - a lineup of wooden tikis with brass bottoms - cover the top of the rehearsal piano, souvenirs of the FAME National Show Choir Competition, held a week ago in Hawaii.

Five very animated, very talented and very enthusiastic groups make up the choral department of Hart High School - the Sound Vibes, the Hart Breakers, Hart 'N Soul, Sweetharts and a manic men's group, Unleashed.

``If you take the best musical number of a Broadway show, add 42 boys and girls singing and dancing their brains out, that is a show choir,'' said teacher Gail Hart, who coaches, cajoles, encourages and glows with pride when her kids perform. ``The groups are judged on showmanship, so they must sing perfectly, dance perfectly, smile and look like they are having a terrific time.''

Soprano Katrina Veldkamp, 18, has been in show choir for four years.

``The people I've met are so great,'' she said. ``I've been singing since I was 4 years old, but this is different. It's more relaxed, and we're bonded. There's no animosity in the group.''

Gerald Espinosa's friends dragged him to an audition and he hasn't looked back since.

``I didn't know anything about this or the people involved,'' said the 17-year-old senior. ``Now all my friends are in it and it takes up all my time.''

``Most of the boys that start with me have never sung or danced before, but it looks like fun, so they really get into it and emerge as great performers a few years later,'' Hart said. ``One of my boys, Charlie Fecske, was named Most Outstanding Performer at the Hawaii competition and he had never performed before he got into choir.''

``Choir used to be dorky, but the kids do such hip, fun dancing, it's cool now. I figure these are the luckiest 40 boys on campus; they're surrounded by 120 girls that give them constant attention.''

Garnering some of the other awards were seniors Lindsey Hough, named Best Female Singer, and Adrian Diamond, whose stage experience includes a stint as Young Simba in ``The Lion King'' at the Pantages Theatre, named Best Male Singer. Sound Vibes came in second place overall and the women's group Hart Breakers came in third in their category.

On stage, both girls and boys used layered techniques to change their looks from formal to flashy, all the while moving with the beat. Copper- colored dresses came off to reveal red sequined outfits layered over black leotards; black tear-away slacks ripped off in favor of gold metallic pants.

Students new to the program pay $600 a year for participating; this includes transportation, competition fees, costumes and some incidental equipment needed for performing. Returning students pay $300 per year. For the group's annual tour, additional money must be raised, which students do through traditional sponsorship drives and hosting competitions or teaching clinics for younger students.

As the only show choir offered in the William S. Hart Union High School District, any student interested in auditioning for Hart's music program can ask for an intradistrict transfer.

``They can't approach me about auditioning until they've put in for a transfer,'' Hart said. ``Once they're accepted, it can be conditional on how well they do in the audition.''

Audition workshops to teach the material are scheduled at 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. April 21, 25 and 26. Students learn a few measures of an a cappella song, some of the dance and get a quick refresher on sight reading and ear training.

The actual auditions will be held 3 to 7 p.m. April 27 and 28. Every student participating in the program must audition every year, regardless of how well they did the year before.

``They have to be excellent,'' Hart says of her students, who are driven, although they act like an oversize family. ``They are always together, at brunch and lunch, they hang out here and they put in hours and hours after school rehearsing. But competition is brutal in the show choir world.''

Hart, herself a performer who spent 4 1/2 years on the road in a company of ``Phantom of the Opera,'' finds her new role rewarding.

``I'm on them worse than their parents,'' she said. ``They have to have a minimum grade-point average of 2.0 every grading period for me. But I just love them. After 'Phantom,' I realized I wanted to spend more time with my kids (Hart has two grown daughters, both Hart graduates) and when they asked me to run this program, I stayed.''

Carol Rock, (661) 257-5252

carol.rock(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Hart High School choir members surround and reach toward Katrina Veldkamp during a practice performance.

(2 -- 3) Above, Hart High School choir members take part in a dress rehearsal inside their classroom just after having returned from competition in Hawaii, where performances won awards. At left, students in zoot suits gather around Anastaica Pirrotta during a practice session. Five groups make up the choral department at Hart High. Students new to the program pay $600 a year to participate. Audition workshops and actual auditions are scheduled for April.

John Lazar/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 21, 2005
Words:888
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