Jubilee builds group, prepares for performance

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Hilary Brumberg” align=”alignright” width=”300″]Winterfest: Sophomores Luisa Donavan, Maddie Waters and Shani Yavin rehearse with the rest of Concert Choir and Family Singers for the Ray Smith Memorial Concert.[/media-credit]

by Malini Gandhi
Winterfest, a two-night concert, Wednesday, Feb. 8 and Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., featuring this school’s vocal and instrumental groups, will be a celebration of both long-held traditions in the music department and new, exploratory beginnings, according to fine and performing arts department head Todd Young.
The new, “very exciting” aspect of the concert is the introduction of the Chamber Ensembles, which will be performing along with Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band during Winterfest I, Young said.
According to Richard Labedz, the director of both Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, the Chamber Ensembles’ performance is “something that has never been done before.” Their part of the evening will feature short presentations by each section of the Wind Ensemble.
According to Labedz, each week the Wind Ensemble students have the opportunity to break up into Chamber Ensembles to learn music and to perfect technique.
The brass ensemble has had a coach brought in from outside for a while who has contributed to small performances at past concerts, Labedz said.
But, while the practice of splitting into ensembles during class is well-established, the other four ensembles have typically been nothing more than practice groups, and “we’ve never had a big performance by individual Chamber Ensembles,” he said.
“We’ve always thought it would be a great experience to feature each group at a concert, and we decided to carry out the idea for Winterfest. The new Chamber Ensembles will open the concert,” Labedz said.
Young said that playing in small Chamber Ensembles are a “very important” opportunity that provide students with “a different playing experience.
“Playing in a small group means that everything is exposed,” he said.
Following the Chamber Ensembles’ performance, the Wind Ensemble, as a whole, will tackle the piece “Arabesque” by Samuel R. Hazo, a challenging piece that features Middle-Eastern scales, according to Labedz.
Symphonic Band will then conclude Winterfest I with “Into the Storm” by Robert W. Smith, as well as “Divinum Mysterium” by James Swearingen.
The next evening, Winterfest II, this school’s celebrated Ray Smith Memorial Concert, which features about a hundred students performing a piece that spans over 25 minutes, will mark the continuation of an established tradition.
During Winterfest II, Concert Choir, Family Singers and Orchestra will each give short performances before they join together for the Ray Smith Memorial Concert.
According to Young, this year’s Ray Smith Memorial Concert piece is “Frostiana” by Randall Thompson, which consists of seven poems by Robert Frost set to music.
Young said that the music department selected the piece because for the past few years it has performed a sacred work, such as large Requiems and Masses, and this year he tried to find a secular piece.
Young said this search was a challenge, because “while there are tons of sacred works, once you move outside this sphere, the pieces become either very short or frighteningly difficult.”
But Young said “Frostiana” has proven to be rewarding.
“It’s not heavy and dark, but it’s serious in a contemplative sort of way. It’s a slower, thoughtful work, with a beautiful final movement called ‘Choose Something Like a Star.’”
Adam Grossman, director of Orchestra and Family Singers, said that the piece is “well-suited for high school students.” According to Grossman, drawing on the talents of so many musicians in one place is “very nice.”
“To put on something like this requires a full orchestra and a large chorus, and not many schools can do this.”