Winter Concert features fresh talent, folk songs, and ABBA

For the first formal Upper School (US) singing concert to feature multiple freshmen in seven years, community members filled the Pratt Room on January 21 and 22 to hear the school’s Chorale and a capella groups perform pieces ranging from African-American spirituals to ABBA.

Although normal auditions for all three ensembles occurred last spring, Chorale Director Joe Horning pulled Chongyuan Hong, Julie Klingenstein, Tina Kulow, and Myles Nadeau-Davis (all ’20) up from this year’s freshman chorus to fill spaces left by last year’s seniors.

“They are all talented and energetic performers,” he said. “They bring strong singing voices and skills, and we’re lucky to have them.”

The concert began with Chorale, the evening’s largest ensemble, which is composed of nearly all members of Voices of the Knight and The Knightingales—the school’s female and male a capella groups—as well as other students. The group performed five songs from around the world, including “The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby,” an Irish folk song; “Korobushka,” a Russian folk song; and “Honey in the Rock,” an African-American spiritual that featured Myles and other soloists.

“My favorite song was ‘Honey in the Rock’ because all the soloists had distinctly different voices,” audience member Abby Cozier ’17 said. “I also noticed that the soloists seemed more confident since the US morning assembly and that their voices were stronger.”

Voices of the Knight performed three contemporary pieces next: “Galileo,” “Killing Me Softly,” and an ABBA medley of “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and “SOS,” in which Julie soloed.

Having studied music since she was 4, Julie said afterward that she was excited to perform in the Winter Concert and loved doing it.

“I wasn’t even that nervous,” Julie said, “because I had become pretty good friends with everyone else in the a capella group, which was definitely a plus.”

Myles expressed similar enthusiasm for the experience.

“It was my first concert singing in a group,” Myles said, “and while it took a lot of hard work and practice to get ready, I really think we did well in the end. It was also a good way to get to know upperclassmen whom I didn’t know before.”

To conclude the night, The Knightingales performed “Under the Boardwalk,” followed by John Lennon’s “If I Fell” and Robby Robertson’s “Ophelia.” Trevor Donovan ’18, who soloed in the latter piece, applauded the group for learning the song so swiftly.

“‘Ophelia’ came together really well in the end, but we didn’t learn the song until a few days before the concert,” he said, citing programmatic debates as the cause.

Chamber Music and Orchestra Teacher Brian Reasoner praised Mr. Horning for incorporating music that drew from a variety of cultures and musical traditions. For his part, Mr. Horning said he enjoys diversifying the collection of songs for the concert.

“I choose pieces that are diverse and represent different cultures so that we are able to learn something about the piece and its cultural context, whether it’s a religious piece with a religious context or a secular piece,” Mr. Horning said.

A week prior to the event, Russian Teacher Josh Walker aided the Chorale in its pronunciation of the lyrics to “Korobushka.”

“It was a lot of fun to help everyone with the tricky Russian sounds,” Mr. Walker said, “and it was a good opportunity to help me brush up on some of my Russian folk songs.”

Chorale and Voices of the Knight member Mary DeVellis ’17, who said she’d barely heard Russian being spoken, never mind sung, before being introduced to “Korobushka,” called Mr. Walker’s help a “real treat.”

“He not only taught us pronunciation,” she said, citing the soft and hard “L” as a Russian language trademark, “but also about Russian culture.”

Mary also commended the efforts of the new singers.

“The freshmen this year have been fabulous, and I’m happy the choral department has become more accessible to all grades,” she said. “Should this practice continue in the future, I believe it would strengthen the group dynamic and develop more skilled musicians over the course of four years.”

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