Harvestfest displays musicians' energy, talent

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Gloria Li” align=”alignright” width=”300″]Harvestfest singers[/media-credit]

Family Singers perform as a part of Harvestfest.
by Malini Gandhi

“Anywhere you find struggle you find music. Music mobilizes, music excites,” said director of Jubilee Singers Sheldon Reid as he gestured to the rows of singers dressed in black behind him and looked out at the audience.
So began Harvestfest, this school’s annual fall music concert that draws upon the talent of various vocal and instrumental groups to celebrate the binding and uplifting quality of music.
The two-day concert was held on Wednesday, Nov. 16 and Thursday, Nov. 17 at 7:00 p.m. in the auditorium. The first performance, Harvestfest I, featured Jubilee Singers, Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble, while Harvestfest II consisted of performances by Concert Choir, Family Singers and Orchestra.
The resounding voices of Jubilee Singers, a group that performs spirituals, gospel music and traditional African pieces, began Harvestfest I. Their first piece, “Voices of Freedom,” arranged by Reid, was a many-layered 0song consisting of snippets of different well-known spiritual tunes, including “We Shall Overcome,” which melded together into a rich flow of forceful, overlapping melodies.
Their second song, “Be Like Him” by Kirk Franklin was a contemporary gospel song that began with the pounding of a drum played by Reid. Sophomore Ooreofe Olumadara began to sing in a deep, rustic voice and was soon joined by the rest of the singers, who sang triumphantly, “When he comes, I shall be like him” while shifting from foot to foot and clapping.
Symphonic Band presented next, and director Richard Labedz noted that he tried to choose a “mix of styles, including contemporary songs and military marches.” Their first piece was “Fanfare For The Third Planet” by Richard L Saucedo, a resonating song that began with the deep rumbling of drums and the shatter of cymbals. The powerful fanfare gave way to the sole pounding of the drums, then the nervous, flickering flutes sounded before the song rose back up to the climax.
Symphonic Band also played Robert Sheldon’s “Celebration and Song,” a light, rhythmic piece with a smooth melody that featured a brief, melancholy alto saxophone solo.
The Symphonic Band was followed by Wind Ensemble, also directed by Labedz. “Tocatta for Band” by Frank Erickson alternated between jumpy, fast-paced sections and slower, breathy sections, demonstrating the musician’s versatility, while “Ginger Marmalade” by Warren Benson began with the clinking of chimes, which gave way to trickling, dissonant sounds and the short notes of the trumpets.
The night concluded with Wind Ensemble’s performance of “The Ascension” by Robert W. Smith. After a soft, wistful beginning accentuated by piano chords, the piece grew louder and more forceful as the ensemble played a series of ringing scales up and down, with the dark shattering of the drums, the fast-paced brass, and slide of trombones adding to the dramatic feel.
Harvestfest II, which featured Concert Choir, Family Singers and Orchestra, brought a variety of touching, evocative music.
Concert Choir’s selection “Winter Song” by Sarah Bareilles, a soft, questioning song layered with harmonies, was one of the most striking pieces. Accompanied by senior Laura Cooke on the cello and sophomore Isabel Oliart on the violin, the piece was yearning and desperate, with the singers asking repeatedly, “Is love alive?” in quiet, searching voices, almost as if they were afraid to know the answer. And yet, there was a trickle of subtle hope in the song of frost; over the wondrous high notes of the violin, the singers sang softly, “I still believe in summer day, the seasons always change and life will find a way.”

Family Singers’ performance also demonstrated this attention to layers of harmonies while also creating a cohesive whole. Their song, “I Love My Love,” arranged by Gustav Holst, was solemn and intricate, as if the singers were telling a tale, utilizing overlapping parts to create a conversation of sorts between the different sections. The movement and layers of the piece were complex, but the performance was rich and controlled.

[media-credit name=”Gloria Li” align=”alignleft” width=”250″]Harvestfest Violin[/media-credit]

Senior Joy Kang plays the violin in Orchestra during Harvest II.

To conclude the concert, Orchestra, directed by Adam Grossman, performed a series of impressive pieces. Filled with frenzied energy, the song “Hoe Down” by Aaron Coplan stood out among the other strictly classical pieces because of its folk tinge. It starts with long, frantic violin strokes, then gives way to quick, static notes and jumpy plucking.

In all, Harvestfest I and II displayed enormous talent and proved Reid’s assertion that music can excite, uplift and unite.