Whittell choir leads off for Giants-Padres
SAN FRANCISCO — It was one of those rare games at Pacific Bell Park when it did not matter who won. And that wasn’t because the Giants had become the National League West champs the night before.
It had everything to do with the Whittell High School Black and White Choir being there to sing the national anthem before the start of Thursday’s game. A sellout crowd of 41,163 filtered in as the 17-member ensemble harmonized “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a rendition worthy of champions.
Instead of being dressed in their regal black and white that most people on the South Shore are used to seeing them in, their red T-shirts made for a perfect accent to the well-manicured green playing field.
“This is pretty exciting. We performed at Disneyland last year. This beat that by a lot,” said senior Elise Ehrler as she watched the game from the center field bleachers.
Seated with her were her 16 choirmates and assorted proud parents.
Though baseball and sports in general are not big on Elise’s list of things to be interested in, she quickly acquired an appreciation for the young ballpark.
“It was such a different perspective being on the field, watching the guys warm up,” she said.
Although she and the others could hear their echoes a bit while standing just behind second base, choir Director John Houghton said it was not as bad as he had anticipated.
“They seemed perfectly comfortable out there,” he said.
The two to three second delay can fluster people at times if they listen to what the crowd is hearing from the speakers rather than their voices on the field. This did not appear to be the case for the Black and White Choir.
Unfortunately, this is likely to be the first and last time the 17 perform together because choir has been taken from a ninth-period class and put into the regular school day. The schedule change means about a half dozen students are not able to take choir because of scheduling conflicts.
In addition to these woes, performing so soon after the start of the school year presented another set of problems. Those who were singing did not have as much time to practice, though Houghton did schedule some extra rehearsals.
It was at the beginning of the calendar year that Houghton applied to the Giants for an opportunity to bring the Warriors here.
“When I sent the audition tape I didn’t know we would sing the following school year,” Houghton said.
Although before leaving Zephyr Cove he predicted the group would be nervous, that did not appear to be the case yesterday. They casually watched the Giants and Padres warm-up before the 12:35 p.m. start from the area where fans can watch for free outside the gates. Then they calmly strolled in from right field as the announcer told those basking in the 75-degree weather just who was about to belt out the national anthem.
In letters several feet tall on the jumbotron were: Performing the national anthem, Black & White Choir, George Whittell High School, under the direction of John Houghton.
For those in the nosebleed seats, the choir’s photo was next to the words. It panned on the individuals as they sang, each looking serious, but having fun.
Sophomore Matt Andrew said one of the reasons he was not nervous is because Houghton makes sure students know their songs.
Houghton has been in charge of the choir for 12 years.
As junior Anna Arana said, when it clicks the sounds are awesome. It clicked on Thursday for the choir even though the Giants lost 7-3.
— Kathryn Reed may be reached at email@example.com or (530) 541-3880, ext. 251.