Midnight Sun Wesley Case covers the city's after-hours scene

Baltimore middle school choir's emotive 'Rise Up' performance goes viral

A couple weeks ago, when Baltimore choir director Kenyatta Hardison hit record on her phone, she simply wanted to broadcast the progress her young singers at Cardinal Shehan School had made on the Andra Day song “Rise Up.”

“During the rehearsal, I added a few parts to it, and then I said, ‘Let me just go live with it,’ just so the parents could see,” Hardison said on Tuesday. “When I pushed ‘Live,’ it just changed. These kids were changing the hearts in the world.”

Not just a few hearts, either. Performed by 30 students between grades three and eight, the original nine-minute video clip quickly spread on Hardison’s personal Facebook page and was picked up by ChoirBuzz, a choral-focused Facebook page. As of Tuesday morning, between the two accounts, the video has more than 7.5 million views and has been shared more than 180,000 times. Watch it above.

“[I]t is FABULOUS hearing young singers using head voices, singing parts, using dynamics and singing from their hearts. I’m a blubbering mess!” reads a Facebook comment under the ChoirBuzz video. “Congrats to this wonderful teacher!”

The clip’s virality has shocked Hardison and the school, but she’s most impressed that the performance has resonated with viewers on an emotional level.

“We got calls from people in the hospital with their cancer treatment about how the kids just gave them hope,” said Hardison, a 1991 Baltimore School for the Arts alumna and East Baltimore native. “You had people from Argentina, Puerto Rico, Texas, even from Baltimore City, all over — just heartwarming messages that the kids just inspire them.”

The choir was rehearsing for the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s 9th Annual Gala for Catholic Schools that took place Sept. 30 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel. Hardison chose the inspirational 2015 song because she appreciated its message of perseverance and resiliency.

“I wanted to teach them [‘Rise Up’] because it was an uplifting song, an encouraging song,” said Hardison, a music teacher at Cardinal Shehan for more than two decades.

In the video, Hardison is seen directing the singers in her classroom. In order of appearance, the soloists are Kai Young (sixth grade), John Paige (sixth grade), Bryana Hardison (fourth grade, and the teacher’s daughter) and Carlyse Blackwell (fifth grade). The performance for the gala featured a portion of the entire choir, which has nearly 100 members, Hardison said.

While the choir has no public performances scheduled in the near future, Hardison said she has already received inquiries about future performances and will likely post more choir videos on social media.

Until then, she’ll continue to beam with pride over her students.

“These kids, they just have compassion. Our school is centered around peace,” Hardison said. “Even as a teacher watching them perform, you can’t hide it. That’s what the people are feeling through their singing.”

wesley.case@baltsun.com

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