By Ainon Hia Kazol ‘18, Ari Gonzalez ‘18 and Kortni Chung ‘18
In the interest of full disclosure, Ari Gonzalez is a member of the Wind Ensemble, and Kortni Chung is a member of both the Jazz Ensemble and Wind Ensemble.
Singers and musicians’ talents blossomed at the Spring Concert on Tuesday night, May 23. Ms. Melissa Williams, Mr. Daniel Jordan, Ms. Robin Casalta, and Ms. Angelique Alexander helped the students put on a production to showcase their skills for their peers, parents, and faculty members to enjoy.
Towards the end of every school year, musicians and singers from the band and the choirs prepare a few musical pieces to highlight the accomplishments they’ve made and how far they’ve come.
Families, friends, students, and staff filed into the seats as Ms. Casalta’s Advanced Chorus warmed up on the bleachers. After match-pitching notes on the piano to get in key, the group opened the show with their rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
The teamwork between Ms. Williams and Mr. Jordan allowed the 150 members of the Intermediate Band to learn how to play their instruments and how to read music in only nine months.
Members of the band expressed their emotions moments before the performance. Ezra Septimus ‘20 said he was feeling a little nervous.
Mr. Jordan conducted the first piece called Low Rider, arranged by K. Lee. This was a familiar upbeat tune that had the audience clapping along.
Their second selection was a rearrangement of the song Mambo from the Broadway musical West Side Story. It was entitled Big Mambo and was arranged by Timothy Loest.
A few of the musicians agreed that Big Mambo was their favorite musical arrangement to perform.
“I was excited to perform Big Mambo because it’s a very intense song that helps reveal all the skills we learned the past year,” said Shelly Gofstein ‘20.
Basit Ejaz ‘20 said that Big Mambo sounded the best on stage.
“They’ve come a long way!” said Ms. Williams, “Nine months ago, everyone on stage was learning their first five notes on their instrument. Now, they’ve learned how to play three challenging pieces. Mr. Jordan and I are very proud of them.”
A student in the audience, Allison Louie ‘20 said, “I’m here to finally see what the chorus has prepared for us.”
The Advanced Chorus recently won a silver medal in the 2017 New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) competition. Their first song was Cum Sancto Spiritu by Antonio Lotti, which translates to ‘With the Holy Spirit, In the glory of God the Father, Amen.’ Their second song was also sung in another language, entitled Je Ne Fus Jamais Si Aise, which was written by Pierre Certon.
The Advanced Chorus ended their performance with two more music selections, Take Me Home by Kevin Olusola and Drag Me Down by One Direction.
The Glee Club, advised by Ms. Casalta, performed Sing by Pentatonix and I See Fire by Ed Sheeran.
“I was excited to perform I See Fire because although it’s a soft song, we sing it passionately,” said club member, Joyce Andria ‘20.
Another member of the club, Anecia Henry ‘19 said, “I encourage students to join Glee because it gives the musical kids at our school an opportunity to do what they love and show their talent. It feels good because the achievements of the arts get to be acknowledged.”
After their last song, the Jazz Ensemble began setting up for their performance. With the percussion and rhythm section on one side, a mix of brass and woodwinds on the other, and a piano player in between, the group was able to balance out their sound and blend into each other’s voices. Ms. Williams conducted the two pieces, starting with East St. Louis Toodle-oo arranged by Duke Ellington. This selection featured solos from Annance Seraphin ‘20 on trumpet, and Meghan Stern ‘20 on clarinet.
Before the performance, Seraphin said she was feeling confident and added, “It’s going to be great.”
The ensemble’s last piece was entitled St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins, a familiar instrumental in American Jazz.
Ryan Channer ‘19, the bassist of the ensemble said, “It feels great to finally perform, but the best part about all of this is how we got here. Working on the music with my fellow musicians and Ms. Williams was fun. We practice twice a week for an hour after school at Jazz Club.”
Followed by the Jazz Ensemble was Ms. Alexander’s period 8 Beginning Chorus. The students began their performance with a cover of Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson.
“I honestly think we sound pretty good, and I didn’t think I would be this excited until moments before the actual performance,” said Elif Stebleva ‘19.
Period 8 finished their segment with a rendition of Dona Nobis Pacem arranged by Harry Wilson.
Ms. Casalta led four Beginning Chori – period 9, period 3, period 6, and period 7.
After being with Ms. Casalta for four years, senior guitarist, Nicholas Lopez ‘17 and pianist, Demir McRey ‘17 performed at their last spring concert.
“I’m going to miss playing with Ms. Casalta and all the chorus classes. I’m proud of everyone,” McRey said.
Up next was the Symphonic Band led by Mr. Jordan. They proudly took home a silver rating this year at the NYSSMA competition. The band prepared three musical arrangements displaying the many skills they have developed over the past few months.
“I feel pretty confident about performing in front of everyone,” said Joseph Kaufman ‘19 before the concert, “I’ve been playing the flute for five years and I’ve done multiple performances. Therefore, I’d say I’m ready for tonight.”
The last performance of the night was by the Wind Ensemble, the group of musicians with the highest level of playing, and most experience on their instrument. Although there weren’t many people left in the audience, they were still happy to play for the remaining members. The ensemble began their debut with a petite symphony called Elements, by Brian Balmages. This instrumental selection was unlike any other because it consisted of four movements, or musical compositions, representing each of the four elements – air, water, earth and fire. Each movement differed in speed, style, and articulation, to closely resemble the element it stood for.
“Elements was really challenging,” said Carina Pierre-Louis ‘18. “But I think we pulled it off.”
The second song was I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables that featured solo singer, Josephine Mammoliti ‘18, and an instrumental solo. Smiles spread across faces and camera flashes flickered in the audience.
The show came to a closing, finally ending with a modern pop song, Am I Wrong, as recorded by Nico & Vinz, arranged by Brian Scott.
With the final note being played, the crowd rose in applause as the ensemble headed off stage. They will begin their work for their final performances at NYSSMA and graduation.