Before the music even began, the mood had been set with the way our basketball court had been transformed into a magical, snow topped mountain setting. Giant red, gold and silver stars were sparkling in the pine tree. Each row of chairs had a handmade snowflake dangling on the end. More snowflakes were dancing in the sky of the backdrop. The audience was filled with the entire student, staff and families of performers and everyone was quietly, respectfully waiting in anticipation for what was about to happen.
The festive curtain raised with a dynamic number featuring the members of the CCA – Musical Theatre. “Omigod” featuring some of their solo singers. This number highlighted the dramatic, melodic, timing and blocking skills, which are essential to develop in a theatre ensemble.
The next performance was a beautiful contrast into a mellow, solo piece featuring Hendrik Kraehling from DP2playing “Girl with the Flaxen Hair” by Debussy. Hendrik was able to sustain long, soothing, tones in a way that reflects hours of independent practice and dedication to his skill.
The program continued to surprise with the mature musicianship of Uday Mehra from DP2. Uday took the audience on a hypnotic journey while first performing “Lenny” by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Listening to this piece was equivalent to eating a delicious dessert or reading a fantastic book, savoring every bite or word. He was spontaneous and deliberate, leaving the listener with an anticipation for the next sound. Myola Swamy on bass and Parth Salwan on drums, from MYP5 and DP2 play together with a relaxed, connected understanding of harmony. They played unique drum and bass lines, creating the perfect blend. Each one of these students is passionate about their music in the most understated yet evident way.
“Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder was the following piece. This is where Uday took a familiar melody and in the genre of blues, improvised by adding some of his newly discovered negative harmonies. Courageous rhythmic combinations took the listener far away from the original song and then in an effortless way he took brought us all back.
Sophia Shahril from DP1 sang a creatively melancholic and original rendition of “Feeling Good” composed in 1964 by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly. Soft, sultry tones came out almost as an exhalation. She was backed by Udayon guitar and Parthe on drums. It was palpable that Sophia had a vulnerable, emotional connection to this Nina Simone piece. She put her total heart into her song.
The program continued by giving us another preview of the enthusiastic students who will be performing in the upcoming end of year musical. The CCA-Musical Theatre sang and danced to “Coffee Break” from the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying”. Hats off to the solo artists and chorus, who gave a stellar performance.
Among music educators, it an accepted truth that a school is only as good as its choir. We can be confident in stating that, after three years, we now have the foundations an outstanding Choir growing in the Secondary School. The students in the CCA- Choir performed “Pure Imagination” with precise three-part harmonies, creating warm and mellifluous tones.
The Winter Concert then took us into the holiday mood with the Christmas Choir singing a favorite of many, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Again, the listening, practice and musical skills that it took for these students to sing a song with multiple harmonies and rhythms was a delight to hear.
Following this, the students of MYP3 sang an absolutely beautiful 3-part harmony version of “Silent Night”. The highest form of singing and most difficult, requiring intense listening skills and focus is to sing a-cappella, i.e., without any instrumental accompaniment. BRAVO, MYP3! You did it and you did it exceptionally well!
The concert continued with one more sneak preview of our eager and talented students in the CCA- Musical Theatre, performing “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” from Guys and Dolls. Their presentation had all the animated and expressive performance qualities needed for musical theatre. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do in June!
Now the program took a special turn and became an opportunity for the collective student voice and choice to be fully heard and witnessed loud and clear with minimal interference from faculty for the house presentations.
The Red House opened with a Christmas classic from “Frozen”, “Let It Go” that students had accessorized with satirical, fearless humor and fun by adding two dancing, winged wonders. Their second number was a playful “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.
Yellow House organized themselves by combining their strengths with solo singing and chorus and performed, “Santa Tell Me”. Every student was seen and their combined voices were enjoyed by all. Well done yellow!
Green House chose to sing “Last Christmas”. Warm, natural, beautiful singing voices and multi-layered choreography made this one of my favorite pieces. (Sorry, I have to show favoritism as I am in the Green House.) Their song was more than just good singing, it was a demonstration of young adults who are very comfortable with self-expression, are open minded and capable of making individual choices. You Go Green!
No Winter concert would be complete without “Jingle Bell Rock” and the version Blue House delivered added a fabulous touch with four young men doing a cross-dressed ribbon dance. Talk about risk takers. We’ll be talking about Blue House for a long time!
The program concluded with all of the teachers, hesitant to say the least, with some of them appearing to be standing in front of a firing squad. Nonetheless, they gave their best and sang “Feliz Navidad”. We have to give them credit, this is the first time ALL of the Secondary School teachers and our school Director were on stage at the same time. Who knows, next year we might even get a dance out of them!
The focal point of an audience is what’s happening on the stage. What we don’t see is the single most important aspect of every performance. It was impressive to see how the students who were in charge of stage changes, props and sound tech were completely on their top game, listening, making adjustments, checking, timing their movement through the transitions; being the skeleton that held the body of this program together.
Being a musician, a performer and a music teacher, you must understand that I cannot be other than highly critical of every music performance I attend and it is with this preface that I must sing accolades for the Winter Concert presented by the students of the Secondary School, directed, taught and facilitated by their music teacher Victor Wong and his teaching assistant, Kristen William and supported by all of the teachers and administration in the Secondary School. This morning’s concert was an example of a well-orchestrated program that featured our student’s genuine musical, artistic, performance and personal skills and talents, empowered by passion, innovation, action, collaboration and ownership.