Chorus reflects on exchange


Carina Chu

Juniors Michael Sgrecci and Mark Slough and seniors Patricia Webb, Stephen Oakes, Katie Mock and Laura Hackfield performed solos in different songs when the AHS choral groups and DBG choir combined to sing together.

Chorus students from Eppelheim, Germany visited from Oct. 13 until Oct. 25, leaving the AHS choral department with an enhanced perspective of world music. The German Exchange Program has been celebrated at AHS every other year for ten years.

Together, the choruses performed a selection by Franz Schubert called “Mass in G” among others at their annual Fall Concert on Tuesday, Oct. 23, accompanied by a small professional orchestra. AHS was ecstatic to perform with their foreign visitors this year.

“It’s one thing to perform music by a German composer, it’s another thing to perform it with German people,” AHS choral director Jessica Irish said. “They give us a perspective that’s far different than when we just learn music on our own.”

The choral students felt that they benefitted  from the program and being able to spend time with the German students after school.

“Seeing the differences come out [like] how we shop differently, but we like the same clothes [is] just so different and so interesting,” senior Katie Mock said.

“We’re able to meet with each other and experience life in a wider variety of ways,” sophomore Steve Aderton said.

The Germans impact the students the most outside of school and chorus rehearsals. This year, the combined choruses went to Kings Dominion and had various gatherings on the weekends.

“That’s when people connect and we realize, wow, you live all the way over in another country, hours away from us, but look how much we have in common,” Irish said.

The German visitors attend Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Gymnasium Eppelheim school in Germany. Their student chorus, directed by Dr. Ralf Schnitzer, is only one of many who have visited Fairfax County Public Schools with the exchange program in the past.

In return, the AHS choral department travels to Germany every other June to perform at various local landmarks and shops in France, Austria and Germany. Students of AHS’s IB Diploma Program benefit especially from the experience.

“The history with Germany and the US because of World War II [is] just so different,” Mock said. “Being an IB Diploma candidate, it’s really cool because it’s very applicable to what we’re learning.”

Irish describes the program as an experience all students should be able to have.

“I just wish that more kids had that experience at an earlier age,” Irish said. “[It’s] difficult to put into words. You’re just really not going to get something like this anywhere else.”