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Practicing pays off: Covington woman to sing at Carnegie Hall

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

COVINGTON -- Twenty-four-year-old Covington resident Dana Henderson has started checking off items on her bucket list early. A week from Saturday, the first soprano will sing on the stage at Carnegie Hall.

"I never thought I would be singing there. It's really overwhelming," said Henderson, who teaches voice and piano at McKibben Music on the Covington Square and said she had been singing and training since she was 12.

Henderson, along with two former college friends from Trevecca Nazarene University, auditioned to sing in concert with Eric Whitacre, a renowned composer and conductor of classical choral, orchestral and symphonic music. The three knew of his work from their days of singing in the college a cappella choir, Madrigalians.

"He's really unique. His stuff doesn't sound like normal orchestra music. It sounds a lot more emotional ... It's very moving," she said. "I became acquainted with his music my freshman year and just fell in love with it. We sang some of his pieces every year for the four years I was there. It's beautiful music."

Henderson said she was checking Whitacre's Web site to see if he had any new music and noticed he was auditioning nationwide for two New York concerts. She, along with friends Timbre Cierpke and Melissa Eick of Tennessee and Hawaii respectively, sent him a CD. He must have liked what he heard because he asked the trio to come to New York to be a part of his Carnegie Hall concert on April 17.

"Most of the people up there will be college or high school choirs or church choirs. We are one of the few smaller groups who are going," Henderson said, adding that because there was such a large number of people who auditioned for the April performance which will feature Whitacre's choral works, he divided the groups and each half will only sing half of the concert.

"Because we are such a small group and because we have most of his music memorized anyway because we learned it in college ... he told (us) we could participate in the entire concert which no one else is getting to do. We're getting to perform the entire concert, but we're going to be in rehearsal from 9 to 5. It's going to be grueling, but I'm going to love it. It will be a wonderful experience," she said.

Henderson said the three friends will meet in New York several days before rehearsals begin April 14 and see the sights. Then they will be rehearsing 10 to 12 of Whitacre's works for three days prior to the concert. And it will be a work of pure love -- the three will not be paid for their performances. They will, however, be playing to a packed house as the concert has been sold out since January.

She was hard-pressed to come up with a favorite piece of Whitacre's music, but finally settled on a composition titled, "Sleep."

"The thing about his music, not only is it beautiful to listen to ... he composes it so that when you listen to it, you can feel the words you're saying," she explained. "Sleep is a poem about day's end and going to sleep ... there's a part which says, 'A thousand pictures fill my head,' and at that point in the song, there's 12 to 14 harmonies going on ... then it says, 'A thousand pictures fill my head, but my limbs seem to be made of lead,' and at that point, all of us come down to one note. It's a complete drop. It's really interesting how the words and the music completely correlate. It's really beautiful."

Henderson is a 2003 graduate of Eastside High School and the daughter of David and Donna Henderson of Covington. Her goal is to become an opera singer. She has taught with McKibben Music for a little more than two years and is enthusiastic about her job.

"We offer guitar, piano, drums, bass, vocal and mandolin ... all kinds of instruments and have between 100 to 150 students in every week," she said. "I love it ... it's really a rewarding job."