The story of Carnegie Hall begins in the middle of the Atlantic and ends with an unforgettable trip by Campbell-Sevey’s Charlie Thomas.
In the spring of 1887, Andrew Carnegie (the rich industrialist) and his newlywed wife were on board a ship traveling to Carnegie’s native Scotland for their honeymoon. Over the course of the voyage, the couple developed a friendship with Walter Damrosch, the 25-year-old conductor and musical director of the Symphony Society of New York who shared his vision for a new concert hall in New York City. It was there that the idea of Carnegie Hall was born.
From this germ of an idea grew a legendary concert hall that has drawn the world’s greatest artists to its stages. Those artists now include Charlie Thomas from Campbell-Sevey.
Charlie has been a member of the Metropolitan Men’s Choir for 21 years and the choir recently had the opportunity to join many other men’s choirs from across the country and sing at Carnegie Hall. About 275 male voices, including 20 of Charlie’s fellow choir members and an alumni choir from West Point, were joined by an orchestra made up of members from the New York Philharmonic.
“The concert began with performances by the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, followed by the Distinguished Concerts Orchestra and Distinguished Concerts Singers International, a mixed of men and women. Both were fantastic,” said Charlie. “When they were done and our choir started filing in, and 9 rows of risers filled the stage from wall to wall, and then the orchestra took the stage, the sold out audience knew they were in for something special.”
And special it was. “We started singing and the auditorium filled with a powerful male sound, the walls resonated with power.” Charlie added.
The joint choir performed Testament to Freedom written by Randall Thompson. The work is based on writings of Thomas Jefferson from 1775-1776 as our nation was being created. The piece starts and ends with the powerful lyrics “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them”, speaking to the unity that was being created here during that time.
“Singing those powerful words about the birth of our nation, in Carnegie Hall, and on Presidents’ Day weekend, was awe inspiring,” Charlie said. “The work brought our minds back to what it must have been like back then, in a divided nation much like we have now, to forge this country. It was an incredibly emotional experience.”
At the last cut off of the 25-minute voice and orchestral work, Charlie shared that “tears streamed down my cheeks as the audience rose to their feet with thunderous applause.”
Before leaving New York, Charlie and the other members of the Metropolitan Men’s Choir, along with their family and friends, visited the 9/11 memorial where the choir was able to give one final performance as their gift to the fallen.
Andrew Carnegie proclaimed that Carnegie Hall “is built to stand for ages”. For Charlie Thomas, it is a memory that will last for ages.