The Rocket Flame

From Classroom to Stardom

The story behind the musical group whose name is nearly impossible to pronounce.

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Singing, dancing, and everything in between, Messa Voce (met-sä-ˈvō-chā) has been a musical group in the school for decades.


“It started in about ‘79, Mr. Eshleman started it, and it was called ‘Show Choir,’” Mr. Eric Poe (Faculty) said.


The organization practices countless hours throughout the week to ensure their music and choreography are to the best of their ability.


“We have them [practices] second period, and also in the mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:15 am,” Allison Collings (11) said.


They perform a few concerts every year, some at the school, during Arts in Action, and their most recent concert held at the Mercersburg Academy.


“They [the Academy] are doing a couple pieces, three or four, we’re doing four pieces, and we’re going to do three pieces together,” Poe said.


It has been a while since the two groups have come together for a concert.


“Before I got hired, Mr. Eshelman did a joint performance with the Mercersburg Academy,” Poe stated.


Poe explained that he had planned to do another performance with the Academy when he started directing Messa Voce, but with the group’s busy schedule, it was put on the backburner until the beginning of this school year.


“I was contacted by Jim Brinson, who is the organist over there,” Poe said. “He also plays the organ for baccalaureate, and in doing that has had a chance to hear Messa Voce the last few years.”


After Brinson heard the group perform, he decided to reach out to Poe.


“So he contacted me and was like, ‘Hey what do you think about doing a joint concert?’” said Poe. “‘I’ve heard your select group come and I think they’re excellent. It’d be really good for our students to sing with other students and kind of branch out, support things in the community, etc.’”


Both singing groups have practiced their songs and will put them together March 23.


“I’m really looking forward to it because it’s in the chapel, which has fantastic acoustics,” Poe said. “Mr. Brinson is going to play the piano for one of the joint pieces, and he’s a very fine accompanist.”


There are countless songs they perform each year, each chosen by Poe.


“They’re all my favorites, that’s why I picked them,” Poe said.


The songs may be a part of the show, but to those involved Messa Voce is more than just the music.


“Messa Voce kind of is my life,” Chelsea Wareham (11) said. “I’ve always wanted to join it since I was a little kid in elementary school, and when I finally came to high school, it gave me a chance to make friends with people that are just like me, and that’s kind of awesome.“

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Showcasing Their Talent

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Showcasing Their Talent

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After the Christmas concert in December, Mrs. Sheryl Dieke (Faculty), director, and the Orchestra dug deep in the music library to acquire fun music to prepare for both their adjudication and District-Wide Orchestra concert that takes place this month.


The Orchestra will go to South Hagerstown High School to participate in an adjudication on March 13.


There are many other schools that participate in the adjudication. An adjudication is a formal judgement. The Orchestra gets the chance to listen to how other schools play. However, the James Buchanan Orchestra is one of the only schools that participates that is not eligible to advance to Districts or Regionals because it is in Maryland.


This is the Orchestra’s second year participating. The group will leave in the morning and go during the school day to play for a group of judges that will record them and then critique their performance.


“Intonation is just an ongoing thing that just comes with maturity and listening”, said Dieke.


However, Dieke has confidence that this year the orchestra is better prepared.


“Improvement is all the time”, said Dieke. “It’s still things we struggle with that we have to just keep pushing forward on.”


The Orchestra practices every day during second period and works through their music to ensure they are prepared as much as possible in order to receive a good score from the judges.


“We’ve been putting in a lot of hard practice lately,” said Rachel Kimmel (12). “I think it’s sounding pretty good so far.”


Throughout the adjudication, the students go through three different activities.


During the warm-up, the Orchestra will run through music, work out any last-minute details, and prepare for their performance.  


In the presentation area, the orchestra will play their selection of songs that they prepared for the judges.


The judges sit in separate parts of the room so that they aren’t distracting each other as they are judging. They record themselves making comments about the strengths and weaknesses that the Orchestra has while playing. They later give these recordings to the directors so that the students can listen to the judges’ evaluations in order to improve future performances.


Lastly, the Orchestra will go to a sight-reading room. Every student, along with the director is handed a folder. They have a couple minutes to study the music. They can analyze things like the key signature, look for incidentals, and tap out rhythms. However, the students cannot use their instrument to practice the music.


When time is up the director conducts as the students play the piece of music. There is one judge in the room who again, judges and listens as they play and gives direct feedback on how the orchestra sight reads.


“You hear and listen to the tapes but for a judge to actually talk to you, I think that gives you more feedback than just listening to some voice,” said Dieke.


Even though this is their second year participating, there is still going to be some pre-performance jitters, even from the conductor.


“I always take it as, ‘Did I prepare them enough?”” said Dieke. “‘Did I do what I needed to do to make sure that they were ready?’”


Students also experience some nerves as they prepare to play on stage because everything they do is judged. This is different from their normal routine of just playing at their concerts. However, to some, it’s more like a rush of adrenaline.


“I like walking up on the stage right before you play because you get this nice nervous, jittery feeling because there’s judges there,” said Kimmel. “It’s a good nervous, it’s a nervous that you want to do good and play your best.”


Despite the nerves, the orchestra will play at the adjudication and celebrate by ending their busy day out of school with lunch and treats at the Valley Mall.

The Student News Site of James Buchanan High School