Winter concert delivers treats for all

Winter concert delivers treats for all

When theater kids and jocks butt heads in the popular Disney film High School Musical, a sinister plot unfolds in support of the social status quo: By convincing her drama teacher to schedule the school musical so that it coincides with the championship basketball game, villainess Sharpay Evans hopes to prove that in high school, there can be no such thing as social unity.

The timing of our own school’s annual Winter Concert may remind some of the dilemma faced in High School Musical—the concert overlapped with the home opener for the boys varsity basketball team. But the similarities end there. Rather than reflect competition and social disunity, the Winter Concert evoked feelings appropriate to the holiday season: warmth, cheer and goodwill toward all.

The basketball game did not take away from an exceptional concert. As an audience of eager parents, students and staff members awaited performances from Concert Choir, Orchestra, A Capella Choir, Jazz Band, Camerata and Concert Band, overblown snowflakes appeared to the left and right of the stage, transforming Roberts-Dubbs Auditorium into a winter wonderland.

Concert Choir, the first group to perform, joined the audience in solidarity with the oppressed through spirited renditions of “Freedom is Coming,” a traditional South African protest song calling for an end to apartheid and worldwide injustice and “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel,” an African-American spiritual. They continued to look toward a brighter future in their performance of the carol “What is This Lovely Fragrance?” a traditional carol which envisions “a light so fair, so tender/breaking upon our wond’ring eyes.” For their last choice of song, Concert Choir dropped its initial seriousness to unite the audience, not in hope for a more just future, but in shared affection for a familiar American pop song by Tony McAuley and Michael D’Abo—”Build Me Up Buttercup.”

Concert Choir emphasized variety, not just in its song choices, but in its vocals—though primarily female, the choir maintained perfect balance throughout its performance.

When the lights came on again, the concert transitioned from the bubblegum world of American pop to the soaring atmospherics of the 1690s, as Orchestra took the stage with its performance of Concerto Grosso op. 6 no. 8 which is part of a collection of twelve concerti written by Arcangelo Corelli. The violins at the beginning of the piece set a dark and ominous tone, but as soon as the other instruments joined in at the climax, the tempo rose and the melody soared.

But Orchestra’s performance wasn’t all rising storm clouds and sudden claps of thunder.

After concluding their classical piece, the members of Orchestra donned vibrant red Santa hats and returned the audience to the holiday spirit with their interpretation of “Sleigh Ride,” a light orchestral piece by Leroy Anderson. Performers rang their jingle bells, creating a propulsive rhythm that made it seem as if Santa Claus himself had arrived to whisk away the residents of Brookline on his sleigh of reindeers.

A Capella Choir also united its audience in holiday cheer—this time, through movement . The Choir clapped, stomped, and hit their chests and knees with each hand, setting the beat for “Bring Me Little Water, Silvy,” a bluesy, melodic American folk song by Huddie Ledbetter that caused members of the audience began to move in unison.

Jazz Band, too, emphasized unity in its balanced approach to the jazz, rock and the instruments in between. The group brought together cellos, a piano, saxophones, violins, trumpets, trombones and electric guitars in an intensified version of downtempo musician Tim Lee’s “One Night Samba,” all without overshining the other. In their performance of David Bowie’s “Sons of the Silent Age,” the group handled contrasting tempos and beats with ease. Their last song, Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up,” asked the audience to look toward both past and future, while the members of the band let loose and had fun. Flipping their hair like rock stars, the group delivered an energizing performance of the rousing, anthemic ode to lost childhood.

Camerata evoked harmony in everything from its choice of dress to the steady contrast of both male and female voices throughout its performance of Louis Lewandowski’s soulful “Psalm 150”—boys wore black suits with red bow ties, while girls wore black dresses with red scarfs.

The group then took on the arduous task of singing “Dixit Maria” which was written by Hans Leo Hassler over 300 years ago in Latin and Orlando di Lasso’s bawdy “Matona mia cara” in Italian in which a young lover pleads for his lover’s attention, somewhat graphically (I’ll let you translate: “Mi ficcar tutta notte, urtar come monton.”) Though singing in three different languages altogether, Camerata remained completely in sync, displaying vast emotion and clearly articulating the words of each song.

The last group to take the stage was Concert Band. Their interpretation of George Handel’s dramatic “Thanks Be to Thee” and “Ascend from Georgian Suite” an upbeat piece by Sammuel Hazo, highlighted a powerful brass section, relentless wind instruments and strong percussion that enabled the group to come together as one and demonstrate coherence. They also demonstrated fine communication in their performance of “Merry-Go-Round,” which took the audience on a full-throttle ride. Different instruments continuously dropped in and out of the song. Whistles, triangles, and drums all made for exciting, unpredictable twists and turns.

A night of holiday cheer came to an end when performers from each musical group rushed the stage, holding out Santa hats filled with candy, which they threw to the audience while Concert Band played them out. A sweet and satisfying end that, like the concert it followed, brought its audience together with a little taste of human kindness that everyone could enjoy.

Seth Coven can be contacted at [email protected]