The soothing melodies of Christmas flowed through the high school auditorium on Tuesday as the Old Rochester Music Department held its annual Holiday Concert. The ORR Jazz Combo, Jazz Band, Concert Band, and Chorus were all dressed to impress in black and white, ready to perform the pieces they have been preparing since the beginning of the school year.
The concert began with the Jazz Combo taking the reins as the first group to perform. The combo is separate from the other groups as it is not a class and practices after school on their own time. The combo has five members: Maxxon Wolski on vibes, Jack Roussell on trumpet, Shane Fitzgerald on guitar, Damon Ivester on bass, and Eli Kovacevich on drums. The combo played a selection of three songs: Stablemates by Benny Golson, Moanin’ by Art Blakey, and St. James Infirmary by Louis Armstrong. Each song boasted solos from one or more of the members of the combo.
Next in line to play was the Jazz Band, which is, in a way, like a smaller denomination of the concert band. The Jazz Band practices and plays its own pieces, as well as playing songs with the concert band, too. This year, the Jazz Band played the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas medley arranged by Murtha, which was “a medley of fun and entertaining songs,” as saxophonist Joshua Garcia explained. Morning Mist by Toshio Mashima, There’s the Rub by Gordon Goodwin, and another classic, Santa Baby arranged by Holmes, with Lillie Farrell and Samantha Babineau providing vocal accompaniment, rounded out the Jazz Band’s performance.
And then the ORR Chorus took the stage – the girls in their black gowns surrounding a group of boy vocalists in white shirts smack dab in the middle. The chorus began with Carol of the Bells, a classic Christmas song arranged by Peter Wilhousky, and continued on to White Winter Hymnal by Robin Pecknold of the band Fleet Foxes. Then came I’ll Be Home For Christmas by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent. Riley Nordahl, a junior, started off the song with a solo. As the chorus began taking their seats, one member of the chorus took a microphone and requested that conductor Mr. Michael Barnicle and his wife sit in the front row for a surprise. Five members of the chorus then began to sing Walking In The Air from the Christmas movie The Snowman, which held special meaning to the couple. Paul Sardinha, the director for the school’s drama club who thought to sing the song, accompanied the vocalists on piano.
Next came the concert band, which began their set with Festive Songs of Christmas by Frank Erickson, which combines numerous classic holiday songs into one festive composition. Then came the traditional British folk Christmas carol The Holly and the Ivy, arranged by Tom Wallace, which showcased the smooth legato sound the concert band is capable of.
The chorus then made another appearance to sing Mele Kalikimaka by Robert Anderson, which brought a tropical sound to the otherwise wintery concert. The song was a hit and a favorite of junior Jonathan Kvilhaug “because it combined both the musical talents of individual members as well as a very festive spirit.” The final piece performed by the chorus was Let There Be Peace On Earth arranged by Altimari, with a solo by Old Rochester vocalist Kelly Bruce. Then, to wrap up the concert, the concert band played Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson.
How did the students performing in the concert feel about their sound?
“When you’re performing, you feel so insecure about how it’s going,” said senior vocalist Hannah Dean. “But the band was wonderful, the jazz combo was amazing, the jazz band was great, the chorus did fantastic, and Mr. Barnacle, as always, was wonderful.”
Pulling a concert together isn’t easy, as chorus member Tori MacLean justified when explaining the challenges of the song White Winter Hymnal.
“We were really struggling with it, but then we all came together and performed it well,” said MacLean.
For the song, the chorus had to do a series of different movements like patting their hands on their shoulders to create different rhythms and sounds, on top of learning the words and dynamics of the composition. With so many people in chorus, it was difficult to keep everyone together, and yet they managed to do so wonderfully during the performance.
No instrumentalist can escape the inevitable wrong note or incorrect tempo in rehearsals, and the Old Rochester band faced the same frustrations held by the chorus. Through time and practice, however, the concert band managed to play their songs with seemingly minimal errors.
“This concert went very well, much better than I expected, in fact,” said clarinet player Mary Roussell, while explaining how the concert band worked together in order to play in unison and perform well for the community.
As for the rest of the Christmas season, the band and chorus will perform at Faneuil Hall in Boston, and then out comes new music to be practiced for the next concert.
By Sienna Wurl