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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On the shortest day of the year, Needham High School music and chorus students performed the annual winter concert for friends, family, and peers to enjoy. With just one day before winter vacation, the students’ energy and enthusiasm shined through in the performance.
To commence the concert, Needham High’s after-school chorus group, Vocale, performed “Caro Mio Ben,” an Italian love song, accompanied by a string quartet consisting of Gabrielle Albrecht, Iris Li, Ethan Cattanach, and Benji Glanz.
Needham High’s director of choirs and strings, Jonathan VanderWoude, next introduced the select choir, known as Concert Chorale. VanderWoude introduced the first song, “Magnificat,” which the students spent days rehearsing. After the hauntingly beautiful performance of the song with solos from Nell Haney, Meredith Saunders, Emily Sgroi, and Stephanie Beger, the choir performed a song familiar to those who have seen Disney’s "Frozen."
Although the lyrics are in Norwegian, the students flawlessly sang the “Frozen Choral Suite,” which includes the songs “Heimr Árnadalr” and “Vuelie” that play in the coronation scene and opening credits, respectively. Before inviting the string orchestra to take the stage, the chorale students expressed their excitement for the holidays as they gathered at the front of the stage with Santa hats and festive props for an a cappella performance of “White Christmas.”
The string orchestra began their performance with Vaughan Williams’ “Rhosymedre.” For their feature piece, the orchestra performed the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings.” VanderWoude prefaced the performance by telling the audience that Tchaikovsky composed the piece in the style of Mozart, and while they may not recognize the name of the piece, it’s likely that everyone has heard at least a part of it.
The combined choruses returned to the stage to perform the festive “Deck the Halls” with a solo by cello player Rachel Gregg, and “All Ye Who Music.” While the audience was thoroughly impressed with the performances from the chorus and strings students, the young musicians had more to offer.
Joining the combined choruses, the orchestra performed selections from G.F. Handel’s “Messiah.” VanderWoude stressed that the four pieces were very carefully selected, as the entire piece would take nearly three hours to perform. One of the selections included “Ev’ry Valley Shall Be Exalted,” sung by tenor Matthew Lorence.
For the final selection from Handel’s “Messiah,” the chorus sang “Hallelujah,” with alumni and family members of the students joining on stage. With such enthusiasm from the audience, the risers could barely fit another person on them as the group performed.
With so many of Needham High’s students pouring their heart and souls into the performance, they guaranteed that the 2017 winter concert would be an unforgettable one.