“Chorus Angelorum” returns

Choir of Angels performs in memory of Joey Baseman


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  • Jim Baseman came to talk to 2A band class about their piece “Chorus Angelorum” which was written in memory of his son Joey and his mother Joan after they died in a car accident.

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On November 8, 2005, a female student at Hereford High School was driving home and made the decision to cross a double yellow line in order to pass a vehicle that was moving slower than she was. This decision was made at the crest of a hill; the student was unable to see if another car was coming over the hill. Audrey (Joan) Baseman had picked up her grandson Joey Baseman (’09) a short time before from the high school for an orthodontist appointment. The cars collided and both Joan and Joey Baseman were killed.

“It was horrible,” Tiffany Bibaud, foreign language teacher and SADD sponsor (at the time) said. The teachers “were called into the library and did not know why. We were given a statement to read to our homerooms.”

The statement said that Joey and his grandmother had been killed the previous day. “It was incredibly difficult,” Bibaud said.

“I cried. The kids cried. I didn’t know what to do. It is the worst part about this profession. As a teacher, when a student dies you never forget it. It stays with you forever.

— Former SADD sponsor, Tiffinay Bibaud

The Hereford community was shaken with yet another death of a student due to a motor vehicle accident after several other students had died recently within motor vehicle accidents.

“Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations,” the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control website says.

“There were no drugs, no alcohol, no rain, or no cellphones involved,” Jim Baseman, father to Joey Baseman and son to Joan Baseman said. “It was only a poor decision.”

In the wake of Joey’s death, a musical piece was commissioned in memory of Joey and his grandmother. “Chorus Angelorum” was composed by Samuel Hazo. The piece outlines an initial ‘angel’s song,’ their journey to heaven, and their return to comfort those who mourn.

The piece premiered on May 2, 2007 when Hereford’s symphonic winds performed the piece, with the signature first note symbolizing the last moment of earthly life of Joey and Joan Baseman and their first moment of spiritual life.

In an article in the Baltimore Sun, Clara Sparks (’09), former band member and Hereford alumnus, said she was moved by seeing how the piece impacted Joey’s parents. “At first, I was excited to play the piece, but seeing their reaction has made that feeling twice as strong.”

Erin McDevitt (’08), another former band member and Hereford alumnus said “nothing has been as important as this.”

In 2007, the band had to give up two trips and staged benefits to raise about $7,000 to pay for the composition to be commissioned. Additionally, the students had to learn the difficult, solo-filled piece over only two weeks.

“Chorus Angelorum” will again be performed at Hereford High during the Spring Concert on April 30.

“I came across this piece last September but had no idea that it had been written for a Hereford student at that time,” Janet Sovich, Music Department chair said. “After I learned “Chorus Angelorum” was written for a Hereford student, I immediately chose it. The composition is hauntingly beautiful and peaceful at the same time, and so very relevant to our community.”

“Music is the best way for us to connect to Joey, because it is inherently an emotional art form,” Olivia Dias (’16), Chamber Choir member, said.

On April 20, Jim Baseman spoke to the Chamber Choir and band about Joey. “He always made people laugh. He was a big kid, but he had the softest heart,” he said. “Joey and my mom were cut from the same mold. They never had a bad word to say about anybody.”

“Since I only saw him in non-classroom settings, [Joey] was always joking with friends,” Bibaud said. “Everybody loved Joey.”

“The song itself is a beautiful piece of music, but knowing the story behind the different parts that coincide with Joey and his grandmother going to heaven makes it even more beautiful and touching,” Elizabeth Tilley (’16), a band member, said. “Hearing Mr. Baseman talk about Joey and what he was like as a kid and what he lived to do really made the entire group emotional. When we played the song for him, you could tell that we all felt a bit of pain from what happened nine and a half years ago.”

“It’s right to remember someone who is important,” Alex Lucas (’16), another band member said. “Music shows a different perspective [on his death].”

For the past several months, Joey has been very alive in the band room

— Janet Sovich, band teacher

“Up here, we tend to have to travel long distances and it makes us impatient sometimes,” Bibaud said. “We might drive more carelessly and recklessly than we should, but the consequences can be lives destroyed. Joey’s friends struggled and his family was devastated. We tend to not think about what could happen. We must take note to be more careful.”

Hours before he died, Joey Baseman wrote in his English journal the following lines, “Nowadays, people are always in a rush. No one stops to smell the roses.”

The words have been used as a reminder and wake up call to all drivers from the fourteen year old boy who would shortly die as a teenage girl, rushed to get the last eight tenths of a mile home.

“When you’re on your own [driving] with no parents to tell you ‘don’t do this’ you must rely on your own decisions,” said Jim Baseman. “Think ‘If I do this, will my parents be proud of me?’ If the answer is no, don’t do it.”