WH Alum Takes Baton at Somerville Caroling Fest

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Bailey Van Orman

Montero directs the Warren Hills Select Choir during the Somerville Caroling Festival

Bailey Van Orman, Staff Reporter

A 2019 graduate of Warren Hills Regional High School, who is studying Music Education in college, stepped in for the high school’s ailing choir director to lead the Select Choir in early December at a caroling festival hosted by Somerville High School.

The Select Choir began working on its music back in mid-September, but around mid-November, choir students were thrown for a loop in their practices. Due to various health reasons, longtime Choir Director Lauren Voight was forced to leave the choir in the hands of a Warren Hills alumnus, Sal Montero. 

At William Paterson University of New Jersey, Montero has been pursuing aspirations of becoming a music teacher by studying Music Education, with a focus on voice.

“This opportunity is an amazing way for me to get experience in the classroom, working with a choir of my own,” he said.

When asked of his experiences in choir while he was attending Warren Hills, he was more than happy to give a glowing review.

“My experiences in choir were nothing short of wonderful,” he said. “Mrs. Voight always knows how to put her students in a good mood, regardless of how they feel when they walk in that day. I can confidently say that some of my best memories came from the choir room.”

While Montero did a standout job leading the choir, working without the direction of Mrs. Voight was not seamless.

“It was difficult at times,” said senior Destiny Sheppard. “We had to practice multiple times a week at some points, but it was worth it.”

On Dec. 10, the choir left right from the school to go directly to the caroling festival at the 600-seat United Reformed Church in Somerville. The concert, involving a half dozen high school choirs, included traditional Christmas carols and secular music.

As a surprise to her students, Voight showed up to attend the concert with the news that she would be returning to class the following Monday.

Though concertgoers could not attend in person, a livestream provided a safe opportunity for family and friends from all over the country to watch, when in most cases they would not have been able to do so. 

Due to the ongoing pandemic, this annual choir festival did not occur in 2020, nor did the choir perform a winter concert in December 2020. In May of 2021, the Select Choir was finally able to sing in a concert for the first time since before the coronavirus pandemic started in March 2020.

Following that trend, the Somerville caroling festival took place in 2021 for the first time since 2019.

“It was so much fun that the festival was able to take place again,” said senior Max Van Orman. “It was missed in 2020, and I’m so excited that we are all once again able to sing in front of other choirs, and to watch them perform as well.”

Montero was successful in his direction of the choir, and students agreed that the first performance of the 2021-2022 school year was wonderful because live performances were greatly missed.