Warren chorus road trip to the ‘Q’

Boys to sing American, Canadian anthems before game

VINCENT–The basses and baritones rumbled up and down the scales Monday afternoon to warm up in the choral practice room at Warren High School. Then came the practice, preparing for an audience of thousands.

The school’s bass chorus of about 20 voices will open the game on the evening of March 21 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors. singing both the U.S. and Canadian national anthems.

It will be a marathon trip, four hours up by bus, the performance, the game and then another four hours back home.

It won’t be the first time. The Warren bass chorus has been singing the anthem for the Cavs once a season for the past five years, having caught the Cavs’ management attention with their performance in a choral competition several years ago. Now, teacher Mary Nuzum said, they are invited to submit an audition tape every year.

For the chorus, it’s an experience to be savored.

“It’s almost impossible to explain,” said Jeremy McGuire, a 17-year-old junior who’s been to the Cleveland gig before. “There are these giant basketball players all around, you go out through the passageway and come out, there’s fire shooting out of everything … it is not like Warren High School.”

“Having access to backstage to warm up, it’s awesome. There’s something about singing for the National Basketball Association champs,” said Matthew Smith, an 18-year-old senior. “They keep inviting us back because we’re good.”

“They start clapping before we’re finished, and that’s not something that happens at home,” said Brayden Hanes, a 17-year-old junior.

The participation of a Canadian team threw a new twist into this year’s performance –the chorus had to learn “O Canada,” and incorporate a recent change in lyrics. One line was changed by Parliament in February from “In all thy sons command” to “In all of us command” to make it gender neutral.

“It’s our first time singing for another country,” Smith said.

The chorus whiles away the bus ride to Cleveland in part by singing —“the treble songs,” Smith said; “Spice Girls, Karaoke” McGuire added with a laugh — but it’s also a time for the singers to get to know one another better, encased in a bus for several hours instead of passing one another going to and from class. “It’s great bonding time, we’re like a big family,” McGuire said.

They gave credit to their teacher for keeping the tradition rolling.

“It wouldn’t happen without Mrs. Nuzum,” Smith said.

Nuzum said despite the built-in turnover in the choir — 30 percent of the chorus this year is freshmen — the performance will be up to the high standards of the past.

“They’re a young group but they work hard,” she said.

The men are confident they’ll shine again. ”

“We just need to stay focused,” Smith said. “We’ll be fine.”

What’s ahead

Warren High School chorus goes to Cleveland:

¯ What: Warren High School bass chorus will sing the U.S. and Canadian national anthems.

¯ The group: About 20 singers, freshmen through seniors.

¯ When: 7 p.m. March 21.

¯ Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland.

¯ The game: Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors.

¯ Televised: Fox Sports Ohio (on satellite but not local cable), can also be live streamed via Internet.