Camerata Conquers Carnegie Hall

Dr. Julia Thorn, Conductor of Camerata

The venue was one of the world’s most prestigious—Carnegie Hall—and the city one of the world’s most exciting—New York, when 53 Centenary singers appeared there by special invitation in February 2007. The group, Camerata, conducted by Centenary’s Julia Thorn, made their solo ensemble debut and performed as part of a larger chorus alongside other choir members and professional singers comprising the Durufle Festival Chorus. Famed conductor Paul Oakley led the larger chorus.

It was the experience of a lifetime for Thorn and Camerata, whose members are almost all music majors, a fact that distinguishes them from another well-known Centenary choral organization, the Centenary College Choir (whose members encompass all majors).

“When we walked into Carnegie Hall there was just a tremendous feeling,” Dr. Thorn said, “a sense of wonder or awe, of realizing the history behind that venue and all the artists who performed there.”

And when Camerata members sang, there was more awe as each young singer reacted to the astounding acoustics of Carnegie. “They were thrilled to be able to share with the audience the kind of music they could do. Mentally and emotionally they were at the top of their game,”
she said.

Camerata was warmly received that cold Sunday evening in February at Carnegie Hall and also during another performance—an emotional tribute to the heroes of 9-11 at Ground Zero. Tears may have been flowing at both, but perhaps more were shed on that Friday at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which sits next to Ground Zero and houses artifacts related to the terrorist attack there. In St. Paul’s Chapel, normally disinterested visitors stopped to listen and then sat down to hear more from Camerata. A huge group formed as more and more people listened to Camerata’s special tribute, “In Remembrance.” Eyes glistened and tears flowed among both audience and singers. “It was very emotional. The students wanted to do that particular piece in tribute to the heroes of 9-11,” Dr. Thorn said.

The road to New York had begun months earlier after a CD sampler was submitted and a selection process completed, and before the prestigious invitation arrived early last Fall. Then the hard part began. Practice, practice, practice. And practicing some more when the major piece was changed to the Durufle Requiem. Then there were CD sales, a Messiah Sing-along and other fundraisers to help finance the trip. The students raised over $40,000 themselves, which accounted for more than half the cost required for the trip. The support from Camerata alumni, families, churches, organizations and friends of the College, Dr. Thorn said, “was a great tribute to the people who love the college, love the arts and love classical music.” Several recent Camerata alumni joined family and friends and New York area alumni to swell the Centenary audience among Carnegie attendees.


Once Camerata arrived in the Big Apple,
there was even more practicing—in four-hour blocks for three days, broken up by a few precious hours available for sightseeing, plays, shopping or whatever students wanted to do. Additionally there was a culminating event beyond the musical efforts. The concert sponsors, Manhattan Concert Productions, treated Camerata to “a fabulous cruise” around Manhattan Island, complete with a late-night dinner and dancing. “The kids bonded on the cruise,” Dr. Thorn said. “They really enjoyed being together and being proud of their accomplishments.”

Camerata and company returned to the warmth of Louisiana with a warm feeling about their distinctive experience. Throughout the trip, Centenary-sweatshirt- clad Camerata members fielded questions about the small college that was home to such wonderful singers. They returned feeling a part of a special group of performers who have graced an amazing venue. As their conductor put it: “Every great artist has performed at Carnegie Hall. Their spirits are there and now ours will be there too.”

by Lynn Stewart, Editor, Centenary magazine

Listed by states and hometowns are the students who sang at Carnegie Hall in the winter of 2007, directed by Julia Thorn, accompanied by Gay Grosz


  • Little Rock: Ben Lieblong

  • Pine Bluff: Carrie Stephens


  • Alexandria: Vincent Turregano

  • Baton Rouge: Nolan Budgewater, Lori Lusted

  • Benton: Elizabeth Newtown

  • Bossier City: Daniel Ley

  • DeQuincy: Kaci Kimball

  • Gonzales: Amanda Bourgeois

  • Haynesville: Travonte Thomas

  • Lake Charles: Margaret Mahoney

  • Metairie: Watson Copeland

  • Minden: Corey Shadd, Melissa Wise

  • Monroe: Nancy Carey

  • Monterey: Adam Philley

  • Ponchatoula: Andy Osborn

  • Port City: Heather Nicholls

  • Princeton: Jessica Rautio

  • Ruston: Mary Greenwood

  • Shreveport: Laura Barrow, Emma Cook, Rebecca Hill, Allison Mills, Tim Nicholson, Thea Partington, Jennifer Perhala, Kathryn Phillips, Leah Sayad, Collis Thorn, Jennifer White, Terry Wright

  • Sibley: Clifton Winkle

  • West Monroe: Shelly Walker

New Jersey

  • North Plainfield: Maureen DeVincenzo


  • Beaumont: Carrie Mercer

  • Garland: Bret Bello

  • Henderson: Travis Orr

  • Houston: Sam Houston

  • Irving: Marcus Jauregui, Michael Rafferty

  • Longview: Rebekah Metcalf

  • Los Fresnos: Lucy Fliegel

  • Missouri City: Amelia Harrell

  • Pittsburg: Karen Massey

  • Richardson: Cory Olson

  • Rowlett: Marissa Torez

  • Sachse: Virginia Applegate

  • Vidor: Shannon Gallier, Billie Harland, Travis Reece

  • Weatherford: Jonathon Richard

  • The Woodlands: Christina Venditte