Beautiful harmonies filled the air as the Baker School Chorus launched into “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” a poem by Emma Lazarus that was later set to music by Irving Berlin.
The themes of this year’s All-Town Chorus Festival were undeniably clear: unity, inclusivity, hope, love and above all, rising up, standing up and bringing people together. Almost everything in the concert reflected these powerful themes, making for an ultimately impactful and touching concert.
Before the Baker School chorus’s performance, director Maureen Meyers took the mic to emphasize the importance in choosing songs for kids to sing.
“We wanted to give students songs that make them think, and the thought process here was inclusivity,” Meyers said.
This sentiment, among other similar ones, was echoed several times by the various directors and coordinators of the event.
There were a lot of well-known songs included in the program, including the songs in a Beatles medley, performed by the Lincoln School Chorus and arranged by chorus director Damon Carter. As Carter began to play accompaniment on the piano, the chorus launched into a string of Beatles hits such as “Hello, Goodbye,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Let it Be” and “Twist and Shout” with seamless transitions.
The ending of the medley was a two-part duet of “Hey Jude” and “All You Need is Love.” The entire medley was excellently arranged and sung confidently with strength by the students. This performance was definitely the one that allowed the most audience engagement. (Why? Because almost everyone loves the Beatles.)
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the medley, clapping and singing along and bobbing their heads. It was an extremely unifying experience. I myself couldn’t help but hum along to the classic, catchy melodies
Another interesting song choice and outstanding performance came from the Heath School Chorus, which sang “The Greatest” by Sia, arranged by director Meredith Huntley. The arrangement definitely sounded more acoustic than the original, yet it still had that catchy beat and irresistible groove of pop music that had prompted head nodding and feet tapping. It was unique, with amazing, well-balanced harmonies sung earnestly by the Heath students.
Later in the song, the chorus launched into a well-practiced rap section (originally performed by rapper Kendrick Lamar) that both enhanced the song and had the audience smiling. The song’s uplifting lyrics were also a particularly powerful component of the performance. “I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive,” the song’s powerful chorus proclaims. One cannot help but think that the lyrics, along with the alleged meaning of the accompanying music video (a tribute to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando) must have played a role in the chorus’s decision to sing this particular song.
At the very end of the program, the high school’s three choirs, along with a combination of the high school’s Advanced Chamber Orchestra and the school orchestras of Driscoll, Lincoln, Heath and Baker squeezed onto the stage as the video screen was pulled down in front of the audience.
Kozol then stepped up to the mic, describing how the Performing Arts department had received a grant to work with renowned composer and Brookline resident Jim Papoulis. In the background, a video played, showing Papoulis working with several different groups of Brookline students, encouraging them to talk about their ideas and their love of music. The video also showed the process of actually arranging the song as well, which was fascinating.
As the video faded to black, a sense of anticipation buzzed through the auditorium. It was time for the final, most uplifting performance of them all — the world debut of “Let us Rise as a People” by Jim Papoulis. Elementary students stood and sang, their clear voices ringing out against the powerful chords played by the orchestra, accompanied by the unending beat of the percussion in the back. The song’s soulful lyrics talked about hope to rise up and bring people together, only adding to the emotional and powerful performance.
The All-Town Chorus Concert brought people from all around town together, linking everyone through a shared love of music and love for a town that supports the arts. It harnessed the true power of music and showed everyone exactly why Brookline should continue to value it.