'Holiday Unity' Springfield teens write winning song for season

December 16, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

WILLIAMSPORT - Best friends with big voices, teen vocalists Kelsi Phillips and Shannon Draper won the Maryland Symphony Orchestra's fourth annual Holiday Lyric Contest with a song about peace among all people.

"There's a lot of things going on in the world right now. It's important to get along with one another," said Shannon, 13, of Williamsport, the daughter of Lee and Tina Draper.

"Let's just put our differences aside for the holidays and remember we're supposed to be nice to one another," added Kelsi, 13, of Sharpsburg, the daughter of Pam Phillips and David Phillips. Both girls are eighth-graders at Springfield Middle School.


Under the direction of Springfield Middle School Choral Director Michelle Rafter, Shannon and Kelsi will perform their winning song, "Holiday Unity," to the tune of "Silver Bells" with about 80 other seventh- and eighth-grade members of Springfield's after-school show choir, Riversong, during the MSO's "Joy to the World" holiday pops concert at The Maryland Theatre this weekend. The chorus also will perform "Kwanzaa Child" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

Shannon and Kelsi said they spent about three days writing the lyrics for "Holiday Unity," devoting the most time to developing the symbolism that shapes the song's second verse: "We are colors, many colors, in a rainbow of one/Starting small and then growing much bigger/We're a vine of many colors, circling round hand in hand/Very different but yet all the same."

Double the talent

Rafter described the girls as "the best of what middle school students are" - dedicated to their studies, helpful, friendly and outgoing. "They're the type of kids every teacher wants to have."

And they're a choir director's dream, Rafter said.

"To have one student sound that good is unusual," she said. "To have two in the same class is amazing."

Shannon and Kelsi said music is a mainstay in their lives - and a passion they plan to pursue.

"Music is my life. It's really relaxing for me to sing, and I enjoy doing it all the time," said Kelsi, who especially admires the vocal talents of Whitney Houston. "I want to do what Ms. Rafter has done for me for other kids," she said.

Contemporary Christian music fan Shannon said her choir instructor has helped her to find the true meaning in music.

"Music always has meaning, and I think it's great when you can sing and get the meaning out to the audience," said Shannon, who's already getting booked for live performances. "I just really like to make people happy."

Both girls said they're psyched to perform with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.

Rafter - whose show choir last performed with the MSO when former Springfield student Lindsey Hayes won the first lyric-writing contest - said the experience is sure to be an enlightening and memorable one for her students.

"I think the thing that they benefit most from is performing in a community experience, seeing that it goes beyond your school years. They'll see people from a wide variety of backgrounds, of all ages, in the audience," Rafter said. "You don't forget performing with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. To be on that stage with that symphony, it's quite an extraordinary experience."

The Herald-Mail Co., City of Hagerstown, M&T Bank and Washington County Public Schools sponsor the MSO's lyric-writing contest.

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