By Chloe Frantzis
Managing Editor of Arts
Each year, South hosts numerous concerts and performances showcasing the talent of its students– but they are not usually as unique as the annual Composer’s Concert that took place this past Thursday night.
The auditorium was more crowded than it has ever been for one of these events, and many audience members were sitting on steps and the ground. Family and friends of both high schoolers and middle schoolers excitedly watched from any seat they could snag in anticipation of the night.
The event opened with Newton South Madrigals and Chorale, the junior and senior and sophomore choirs, respectively, singing a beautiful piece titled “Cantique de Jean Racine” by Gabriel Fauré, accompanied by Christy Liao on the piano. After the opening number, one of the first surprises of the night took place. After a brief orchestral interlude featuring selections from Georges Bizet’s classic 1875 opera Carmen, the instrumentalists, along with a few musicians from band, joined the choirs for two more songs.
The first was the iconic “Habanera” from Carmen, which featured soloist Heather Gallagher from the Boston Lyric Opera. She entered the stage in a beautiful, flowing red ball gown, and when she opened her mouth, her commanding yet awe-inspiring voice captured the audience in a trance.
Afterwards, Madrigals and Chorale were joined by Vocal Ensemble, Newton South’s freshman choir, for a spirited rendition of “March of the Toreadors”, another notable piece from Carmen.
Getting to perform with a high-profile opera singer was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for most of the musicians on stage, and it was an opportunity the performers and the audience will never forget.
After the songs from Carmen, the show reached intermission, and the chorus and orchestra exited the stage as it was rearranged for band. Even though the opera singer was not going to return, there were still more surprises yet to come.
After intermission, South’s Wind Ensemble took the stage, playing two pieces. The Wind Ensemble is composed of about 20 members of the Symphonic Band who enjoy a challenge and more music. The first piece was titled “Shepherd’s Hey,” by Percy Grainger, a very famous band composer who loves reed instruments. This piece was unique for the group as they had been able to play it with the MIT Wind Ensemble only a few weeks prior. Although the performance was a step down from college caliber– which is to be expected– the group still did an impressive job articulating the notes and keeping the tempo.
The second piece, “Footsteps,” had a very different feel than the more classical Granger music and features a gradual progression of sound and intensity.
The Wind Ensemble was then joined by the rest of Symphonic Band to play another two pieces. The first, titled “Christmas Variants”, was also performed at the annual holiday concert. Although holiday music is usually pretty basic, “Christmas Variants” is unique in that it is extremely complex and sounds appropriate for any time of year.
Finally, the high school group was joined by the Oak Hill Middle School sixth, seventh, and eighth grade bands. This collaboration has never been done before in South history, and it took an extreme amount of dedication and effort for the South band director, Lisa Linde, and the Oak Hill Band Director, Roy Miller.
Together there was close to 120 students on stage– probably a record for a South concert. For the finale, they played a song entitled “Iberian Escapades” by Robert Sheldon. Because of the sheer amount of musicians, the piece had a volume and intensity like no other.
Overall, the annual Composer’s Concert was full of unique collaborations and wonderful music. South choral and orchestra members got inspiration from Gallagher, while South Band students got to meet and mentor the future generation of musicians. The connections and music made at the concert were able to happen thanks to the hard work from the Newton Arts community– and although it was a big risk, the effort definitely payed off.