The sounds of the musically talented

Jan. 13, 2008, midnight | By Anika Manzoor | 12 years, 8 months ago

It's a show at the winter concert

The cacophony of guitar strings and gossip suddenly ceases as music teacher Paul Newport holds up a hand for silence. Then, only harmonized voices and suppressed giggles can be heard as Newport runs through scales with the choir, occasionally making jokes and replacing the standard "fa-la-la-la-la" with names of students in the room. Conversation rises up again as Newport stops to tune the guitars but quiets once more as he holds a finger to his mouth and says, "Can you do this for me, everyone?"

Junior Adam Carey, in his second year of performing with the Blair chamber choir, is used to the intense preparation for the annual winter concert, held in the auditorium on Friday. "Mr. Newport is very particular," Carey says. "He makes sure what we're singing is exactly how it's supposed to sound." Once the guitars and the singers are perfectly tuned, the chamber choir and the guitar ensemble are ready to take the stage, kicking off a night that also features the Blair orchestra and InToneNation.

According to junior Andrew Villadsen, a member of the Blair chamber choir, the winter concert is the biggest show so far. "It's kind of like the culmination," he says. "We get to prove we've actually been working hard, getting the songs right and making it sound good. Sort of like a final test."

As the guitar ensemble waits to enter the stage as the first act, junior Adam Jackson, performing with chamber choir and the guitar ensemble for the first time, is slightly apprehensive. "I am worried about some of the songs either because we haven't practiced them enough or we've had consistent troubles with them," he says. "But I love performing so I'm not too anxious. I think we're going to do pretty well."

The show commences with the ensemble's arrangement of Bach's "Bourée," a lively and upbeat song for the French dance of the same name. The choir then joins the ensemble for "Tanzen und Springen" – which translates to "Dancing and Jumping" – a fitting title for the bright and peppy number by German composer Hans Leo Hassler.

With the first two songs, the ensemble and choir already display their capability for performing an extensive variety of music. The choir performs pieces in German, English, Hebrew and Latin, which are also characterized by their different melodies – from sorrowful to bubbly and from romantic to inspirational.

Freshman Janet Zhu, who has been in a chorus for many years, notes the complicated diversity of the songs sung by the Blair chamber choir. "Our songs are more challenging…than [songs performed in] middle school," she says. "[But] I really like singing so it's pretty fun."

While Zhu is in her first year with Blair's chamber choir, senior Stevia Morawski, a Blair choir member for four years, sings her final solo for the winter concert in "Bear Me Gently" by Kinley Lange. Although Morawski looks forward to the prospect of performing in the All-State Chorus this year and participating in college choir, she feels nostalgic about moving on. "I've had a lot of fun with this choir," she says. "I've had Mr. Newport for six different classes so I'll miss him as a teacher. And I'll miss having all my friends in one class everyday."

After the choir, Blair's a cappella group InToneNation energizes the audience with their interpretation of The Beatles' "Paperback Writer" and Lyle Lovett's bluesy "She's No Lady" – eliciting laughter from adult audience members – and moves the audience with the uplifting "Down to the River to Pray."

Also in show - the symphonic orchestra, which, according to music teacher Dustin Doyle, has "more of an instrumental part" this year. "Usually, we've been performing a piece and then the Messiah [with the choir]," he says. "Now we're playing several pieces."

The orchestra also showcases their musical diversity and keeps the audience riveted with the fun and fanciful Ukrainian "Hopak," the patriotic "English Folk Song Suite" and the spontaneous and climactic Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7."

But the highlight comes towards the end of the evening with the big finale. The choir and orchestra invite members to the stage to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" from the Oratorio Messiah. The audience's rendition of the song is a tradition that has been building for the past four years, Doyle tells the audience with a smile. "Put it on the calendar for next year," he says.

When the hesitant audience members finally make their way to the stage, the orchestra strikes up the familiar and spirited tune and the vocalists, trained and untrained alike, enthusiastically belt out the popular chorus. Meanwhile, the spectators nod to the music – some even mouth the words – or smile as the performers shine. As final notes reverberate through the auditorium, the audience erupts into a tumultuous standing ovation.

Anika Manzoor. Although she may look like a cute and innocent freshman, Anika is actually a SENIOR(!!), who kicks butts and takes names on a daily basis. But otherwise she's very friendly with a sunny disposition and a constant snarl - er smile on her face =D … More »

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