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Meet the D.C. teen choir that joined Bono and The Edge at the Tiny Desk

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Kirsten Holmes is a senior at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., and a member of the concert choir there. She remembers about a month ago getting a call from her choir director, Patrick Lundy, about a special gig.

KIRSTEN HOLMES: He was like, there's been this opportunity for you and some others to perform at NPR. I'm like, NPR, to my knowledge, is Tiny Desk, but I'm like, OK.

SHAPIRO: That's all you know of NPR - the Tiny Desk.

HOLMES: Yeah. I was like, just - I'm like, I'm going to wait, though. And so then, the next - when we all met up, they was like, yeah, so basically, y'all are going to be on Tiny Desk behind Bono and The Edge. We were like, oh...

SHAPIRO: I believe it's pronounced Bono.

HOLMES: Bono - Bono and The Edge - I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: Bono and The Edge - and we were like, wow. OK.

JEVON SKIPPER: Yeah. That's when I first found out.

SHAPIRO: That's her classmate and fellow choir member, sophomore Jevon Skipper.

SKIPPER: I was like, Tiny - wait a minute. NPR? Tiny Desk?

HOLMES: Like, I watch this all the time.

SHAPIRO: But did you both know U2? Did you both know who Bono was?

HOLMES: I had found out prior. Oh, but my parents do. They was like, U2? It was like...

SKIPPER: Not even parents - my dad - 'cause I know my dad was like, look them up. So I looked them up, and, like, I see they performed at the Super Bowl. I'm like, oh, they must be, like, big news...

HOLMES: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Yeah, you know.

SKIPPER: ...Performing at the Super Bowl.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BONO: (Singing) I want to feel the sunlight on my face...

HOLMES: We're youngins (ph), you know?

SHAPIRO: Of course.

HOLMES: We - we're young, so we're still learning and stuff, but it's just a wild moment.

SHAPIRO: So, like, one of the songs that you did with them was "Beautiful Day."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Vocalizing).

BONO: (Singing) ...Over you. It's a beautiful day. Don't let it get away. Beautiful day. Yeah. Yeah. Touch me now. Take...

SKIPPER: That's my jam.

SHAPIRO: OK. 'Cause it's a lot of people's jam. Like, Obama played "Beautiful Day" on the campaign trail.

HOLMES: Oh, wow (laughter).

SHAPIRO: And so for you, is it just like, oh, this is a good tune?

HOLMES: Yeah. You know, I was like, oh, this is so nice, you know? But I didn't know that about Obama.

SKIPPER: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BONO: There he is.

(CHEERING)

BONO: Can you throw in an ooh or something? (Singing) Ooh...

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Ooh...

SHAPIRO: Did Bono seem different? Was it - did you get the sense of, like, oh, yeah, this is why he's one of the biggest rock stars in the world? Or were you just like, well, he's, you know, another guy?

HOLMES: He was really chill - like, down-to-earth.

SKIPPER: Yeah.

HOLMES: Yeah. And I love how they weren't bigheaded because I know how sometimes, when you're in the presence of someone with a higher status, it can be really intimidating. And I didn't feel like any of us felt intimidation from them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BONO: (Singing) After the flood, all the colors came out...

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Vocalizing).

HOLMES: It was just a really - it was, like, a learning experience. Like...

SKIPPER: Yeah.

HOLMES: ...They was like, well, what do y'all think would fit, you know, good in this part? And it was just...

SHAPIRO: Oh, wow. He asked for your input?

SKIPPER: Yes.

HOLMES: Yeah.

SKIPPER: Like...

HOLMES: Yeah, one of our friends and...

SKIPPER: ...By accident, 'cause...

HOLMES: On accident, right (laughter).

SKIPPER: ...We didn't know - we didn't - we couldn't get the words right, so he accidentally sung the wrong thing. And Bono was like, oh, wait.

HOLMES: I liked that.

SKIPPER: What did you just do?

HOLMES: I liked that, man.

SKIPPER: I like that. Like, do it again.

SHAPIRO: Do you remember what it was?

HOLMES: The ba (ph) - it was a part in the song - we was like, (vocalizing) ba ba ba ba.

SHAPIRO: Oh, yeah, the same note over and over again.

HOLMES: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: That was - just one of the members...

HOLMES: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: ...Of the choir came up with that on the fly?

HOLMES: Yeah. It was an accident. He was like, I like that, man.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Vocalizing) Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba...

BONO: Come on.

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Vocalizing) ...Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba...

BONO: (Singing) You're on the road...

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Vocalizing) ...Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba...

BONO: (Singing) ...But you got no destination.

HOLMES: He was like, oh, OK (laughter). And so...

SKIPPER: It was funny because we all knew it was an accident, but then we kind of just went along with it. And Bono was like - he likes it, so we just did it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Vocalizing) Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba...

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) Even if that doesn't ring true...

BONO: (Singing) ...You been all over...

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) ...And it's been all over you.

BONO: (Singing) It's a beautiful day. Don't let it get away. Beautiful day, yeah. Yeah.

HOLMES: Gee, I just know I felt really grateful to just have this opportunity and grateful that I attend the school that I attend because it's like our school creates these possibilities for us 'cause I know for sure this one wouldn't have happened if I wasn't at Duke.

SKIPPER: Oh, for sure.

HOLMES: So it was just a really appreciative, grateful moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BONO: We're around the corner from Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

SHAPIRO: Was there any moment that you were singing with them that you got goosebumps - like, a specific part of a song?

SKIPPER: I actually - this was probably my favorite part. It was the song "Walk On."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BONO: (Singing) Walk on.

(Speaking) Try it.

HOLMES: It was amazing. It was...

SKIPPER: Really happy.

HOLMES: I think my moment was just seeing the people's reaction - just to allow other people to feel the enjoyment of what we, you know, are gifted to do, and it was just really good.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) All that you make, all that you build...

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Walk.

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) ...Whatever they break, all that you dream of...

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Walk on.

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) ...All you design...

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Walk on.

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) ...All that you can't...

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Walk on.

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) ...Leave behind...

SKIPPER: At the end, where it was - we were like (singing) walk on, walk on, walk on. And then the sopranos - (singing) walk on, walk - I loved that part, and it sounded so good.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) Hills that you climb...

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Walk on.

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) ...All that you can't...

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Walk on.

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) ...Leave behind, leave it behind.

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Walk on. Walk on. Walk. Walk on.

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) Not going to leave it behind.

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Walk on. Walk on. Walk on. Walk on. Walk. Walk on. Walk on. Walk on. Walk on. Walk on. Walk.

(LAUGHTER)

DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Walk on. Walk on. Walk on.

BONO: Thank you so much.

(CHEERING)

SHAPIRO: I want to end by talking about your future as artists and musicians. Kirsten, I know you favor jazz and opera. Jevon, you're more R&B, gospel. What do you imagine yourselves doing after you're done with high school? How do you see yourselves making music?

HOLMES: Me - I know for sure I'm going to do Christian music. Also, opera is, of now, a must-do for me, and I really just want to grow in the classical realm.

SKIPPER: I feel like I would probably, like, do both. Like, I would do gospel and R&B. I guess I just like the feeling that I can make someone's day with the gift that God gave me. Like, ever since I was younger, I just loved singing for people and making people feel better and just, like, encouraging people.

SHAPIRO: Well, I'm excited to see what you both do next.

HOLMES: Thank you so much.

SKIPPER: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Kirsten Holmes and Jevon Skipper sing in the concert choir at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. It has been great talking with you, and congratulations on your Tiny Desk debut.

HOLMES: Thank you so much.

SKIPPER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BONO AND THE EDGE: (Singing) Whoo-hoo.

BONO: You can sing that bit.

BONO, THE EDGE AND THE DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Whoo. Whoo.

BONO: Choirmaster Patrick is singing that part.

(LAUGHTER)

BONO, THE EDGE AND THE DUKE ELLINGTON SCHOOL OF THE ARTS CHOIR: (Singing) Whoo.

BONO: (Singing) Slow down...

SHAPIRO: The Tiny Desk concert series turns 15 next month. And you can watch the full show with members of U2 and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts Concert Choir, along with more than a thousand other Tiny Desks, at nprmusic.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BONO: (Singing) Slowly now, slowly now.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.