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Lisbon native sings at Carnegie Hall


When she graduated from Lisbon Central School in 2007, Ashley M. McGrath sang the Beatles’ “In My Life” at the commencement ceremony.

Last Sunday, Miss McGrath, 23 and a school music teacher in South Carolina, sang as part of a 250-voice choir in a performance of “A Great and Glorious Victory” by the English composer Jonathan Willcocks.

The occasion was the celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. in New York City.

The venue was the legendary Carnegie Hall.

It was quite a change for the daughter of Paul N. and Yvonne McGrath, who graduated with a degree in music education major in December 2011 from Southern Wesleyan University in South Carolina, and since last year has been teaching music at Ware Shoals Primary and Elementary School in Ware Shoals, S.C.

From the Lisbon Central gymnasium to a storied stage graced by music legends ranging from Leonard Bernstein to the Beatles, the journey was capped by a coincidence.

Pickens Presbyterian Church in Pickens, S.C., where Miss McGrath attends and is a part-time choir director, sent her to a music conference.

“It came about from attending a music conference in Montreat, N.C.,” Miss McGrath said. “I auditioned for a chamber choir that was being conducted by the same man who composed and conducted ‘A Great and Glorious Victory’ at Carnegie Hall, Jonathan Willcocks. He invited me to sign up for the event.”

Taking the Carnegie stage last Sunday wasn’t as daunting for Miss McGrath as one might assume.

“I was more nervous about getting a taxi than I was about singing in Carnegie Hall,” she said. “I have had to perform in college countless times and it’s not really nerve-wracking for me to sing in a big choir. Although, I might have been shaking if I had a solo.”

Still, it was an impressive gig.

“Yes, it’s amazing to think of all the great performers who made music in that hall,” Miss McGrath said. “One day, I was teaching my students all about the great performers who have been to Carnegie Hall and the next day I was getting to stand on the same stage as many of them did.”

And how about the great building’s famously perfect acoustics?

“Yes,” Miss McGrath said. “As soon as the strings in the orchestra played the first phrase at dress rehearsal, I pretty much melted from the amazing acoustics.”

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