Clover Choraliers Christmas concert, 2023

The Clover Choraliers have built a passionate following here in Beaufort, having made this a stop on their spring tour over the past few years. I wrote a paean to this exceptional, award-winning high school choir from the upstate before their performance last year, and I can’t tell you how many people emailed later to say thanks.

One reader wrote, “I don’t even listen to choral music, but your rave was so over-the-top, I just had to check this group out. I am now a fan for life.”

Fans for life and the uninitiated alike have a chance to see what all the hype’s about on Friday, May 17, when the Clover Choraliers – all 120 of them – perform a concert at First Presbyterian Church.

Here’s how good this choir is universally acknowledged to be: Its founder and director, Jay

Jay Forrest (center) recenty received the Order of the Palmetto for his 30 years of service in arts education

Forrest, was just presented with the Order of the Palmetto by State Superintendent Ellen Weaver – on behalf of Gov. Henry McMaster – for his 30 years of distinguished excellence in music education.

Beaufort’s Vic Varner, retired choral director and an old friend and colleague of Forrest’s, has called him “a real-life Pied Piper,” saying, “He leads, and kids follow.”

“I don’t know about that,” Forrest told me last year. “But I will say that I probably spend more time thinking about how to motivate these kids than I spend preparing music. And it’s all about student leadership. We’re very passionate about the hierarchy here, with the seniors at the top. The upperclassmen teach and lead the underclassmen. One of the dads once told me that we have a ‘corporate culture.’ I didn’t know what that meant, but apparently it means that if anybody loafs – doesn’t give 100% – then nobody buys the product.”

This particular product is outstanding. In last year’s “over-the-top” rave, I wrote:

Clover Choraliers, Christmas concert 2023

“The Choraliers need to be seen and heard. They’re a bit of a spectacle, in fact. Subtly costumed and choreographed, they’re somehow both precise and free flowing. Their bodies move with their music. Their faces shine with emotion. Every bit of every Choralier – mind, body, and soul – seems connected with every note they sing. And as a result, we audience members connect, too. With the music, with them, and with each other. ‘Sublime’ is not too strong a word for the experience.”

Last year, the Choraliers came to Beaufort just before traveling to the Bahamas, where they’d been invited to perform at Christ Church as part of the celebration commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Bahamian independence.

“It was an incredible experience for our students,” Forrest told me recently. “They were well received by a large audience, collaborated musically with a local choir from Nassau, and met singers who performed as children at the original independence ceremony 50 years ago.”

Every year, along with several choral concerts, the Choraliers perform a full-scale staged musical. They’ve just wrapped this year’s production of ‘Something Rotten,’ the hilarious smash hit that tells the story of two brothers in 1959 who set out the write the world’s very first musical. They performed the show for three sold-out audiences.

The Beaufort audience will probably hear a few of those songs, along with a wide variety of contemporary choral compositions and spirituals.

“We will also perform excerpts from Vivaldi’s Gloria and Crucifixus by Antonio Lotti,” said Forrest. “The concert will conclude with some lighter selections.”

The Clover Choraliers have grown almost as fond of coming to Beaufort as Beaufort is of having them here. According to Jay Forrest, “The Beaufort performance has been one of the highlights of our school year in the past. In addition to the beautiful waterfront setting and lovely architecture of First Presbyterian Church, the community has so warmly embraced our teenage singers in the Choraliers. We have a tradition after concert we refer to as ‘meet and greet’ where the students leave the risers and engage with our audience. This time of sharing has made an impact on these students in teaching them the value of manners and the opportunity to be ambassadors for young people. The concert in Beaufort will be bittersweet for many as it is the final performance of the year.”

The Clover Choraliers will perform a concert of eclectic choral music on Friday, May 17 at 6 pm, at First Presbyterian Church, on the corner of North and Church Streets in downtown Beaufort. Admission is FREE but seating is limited. The public is encouraged to arrive early. Last year’s concert was standing room only.