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Nathan Hale Sentinel

Mr. Norberg meets the president

On a trip to the east coast over winter break, Hale’s choir director, Evan Norberg, got to participate in activities even Washington D.C. residents don’t get to. He met the president.

“Talking to locals, they were totally impressed,” Norberg said about his trip to the White House. He got to sing for, and shake hands with, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Norberg, when not teaching Hale’s jazz ensemble and choir classes, does his own singing with a Seattle choir called Choral Arts. He has been in the choir, with approximately 25 other professional singers and music educators, since 2011.

Choral Arts’ normal performing venues include Trinity Episcopal Church and St. Joseph’s Church, with occasional trips to Tacoma, Oregon, Salt lake City, or Canada.

This December they were one of 15 choirs–hand picked from hundreds across the country–to sing in a holiday series at the White house.

“We are the last choir in the series,” Norberg said. It was “quite an honor to be selected.”

With the last minute invitation the Choir was thrown into “a whirlwind” as they prepared for their departure the Thursday before break.

Having “rehearsed only like four times,” the choir, with the members’ extensive experience, was prepped for the performance. Their repertoire, including songs like “In the Bleak Mid Winter” and “Little Drummer boy,” were performed earlier this December in their “Choral of the Angels” concert.

Norberg didn’t know what to expect from the experience but was “so excited.”

Now back from his short jaunt of just one full day, Norberg is still excited. He tells the story with a smile and enthusiasm.

The White House was “completely decked out” for the holidays Norberg said. There were piles of candy and sweets, butlers walking around handing out champagne, and “presents for people as they walked in.”

Norberg’s choir was set up as a kind of “background music” in the area outside the banquet hall. Told that the president and first lady had left for vacation, they were content to sing for the politicians and other important figures in the vicinity.

Then came the surprise.

The Obama’s were still around and wanted to hear the choir sing. Norberg and his fellow singers were taken aside and told how to present themselves.

“I hope to get a selfie with Obama,” Norberg had said jokingly before his trip. Unfortunately they “weren’t allowed to take phones or music.”

Without sheet music, the choir had to quickly decide which song they had close enough to memorized to sing unaided.

Then they were ushered into the president and first lady’s presence by the champagne-handing-out butlers who doubled as members of the secret service.

“Of course, Michelle was gorgeous,” Norberg said. Barack and Michelle Obama shook hands and exchanged greetings with all the members of the choir before they “listened to [the choir’s] 50 seconds of singing.”

By the song’s finish Michelle was tearing up. In what Norberg describes as a peak moment of his life, Obama pointed over toward him and said:

“I like this bass guy on the end!”

 

Photo by White House staff


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