HHS Choir wins Sweepstakes

Members of the Huntsville High School Varsity Chamber Choir display the Sweepstakes trophy they won after receiving two first division ratings at UIL Concert and Sight Reading Contest on Friday. This is the third time in 12 years that the HHS Choir has brought home a Sweepstakes trophy, which is presented only to choirs that earn first division ratings in all UIL contests in a given school year. The choir is directed by Clay West, who is in his first year with HHS, with Sherri Barrett serving as the choir accompanist.

The Huntsville High School choir room is thick with excitement these days, as its varsity chamber choir celebrates the program’s third UIL Sweepstakes win in 12 years.

The honor was bestowed on Friday, after the choir earned first division ratings in both portions of the UIL Concert & Sight Reading Contest in Spring.

“I am exuberant, delighted,” choir director Clay West said. “Not just for them but for those who will come after them.

“All year, it has been building up to this moment,” he continued. “This is a great success for us, and for this program.”

The Sweepstakes win was significant for graduating senior members Ray Merlos and Mercedes Basey Scott, both of whom were very pleased to leave the choir in a successful state.

“I am very proud of what we accomplished,” Merlos said. “I feel great about the way we are leaving the high school.

“It is such a big accomplishment for us — not just for seniors, but for the entire choir.”

Scott agreed with her classmate, adding that the win was the result of a lot of effort from each of the students.

“Every single one of us worked so hard for this,” she said, “and I am glad to see that hard work pay off for us.”

In addition to its daily rehearsals in the choir room, the choir took part in after school practices once a week, with some of the students working individually at home.

“We want to thank Mr. West and our accompanist Mrs. (Sherri) Barrett for encouraging us,” Merlos said.

“They are both great,” Scott added. “We are leaving the choir in great hands.”

West, who is in his first year as HHS’s choir director, said the choir faced many adjustments this year and far exceeded his expectations.

“When I came here, my number one goal was to win a Sweepstakes,” he said. “I knew at some level that was a really lofty goal, because of the level of musicality and precision it takes to accomplish that, plus the students and I were learning to work together.

“These students have worked so very hard and have shown such commitment,” he added. “They pressed through those barriers to achieve what they did.”

The campus’ non-varsity treble choir also competed at Friday’s contest, earning second division ratings for their concert and sight reading performances.

“I also am proud of the treble choir girls,” West said. “They are unique this year — made up of girls from three different choirs.

“They only rehearsed two times a week, but I still wanted to see them compete,” he added. “I am very proud and excited to see what they can do next year.”

West said he hopes to see the successes achieved this year continue for many years ahead.

“My goal is to be consistent in the level of musicians that we create here at HHS,” he said. “I want to do the best I can to continue that tradition.”

To earn a UIL Sweepstakes Award, choirs must earn a first division rating in all UIL contests during that school year.

According to West, the HHS Choir previously won a Sweepstakes trophy two years ago, in 2008, and before that, in 1998.

“I am proud of all the students,” he said. “You don’t win honors like these without lots and lots of hard work.

“I just can’t completely put into words how proud of all of them I am.”

The HHS choirs will perform in its spring concert at 6:30 p.m. on May 11 in the school auditorium; and will be participating in the HHS performance of “The Sound of Music,” taking place May 27, 28 and 29.

Students also will be attending the state solo and ensemble contest in Austin on May 31.

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