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Audience is Left With Chills After Choir’s Annual Winter Concert

December 15, 2021

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  • The African origins of ‘Betelehemu’ were appreciated in the performance by Westwood Combined Tenor/Bass Ensembles. The three soloists stood up front, surrounded by the self-made, clapping beats by the rest of the group.

    Photo By Eshaan Chopra

  • Small but mighty! Grisham choir made their first appearance in a Westwood concert. Their booming voices filled the church, along with their shining confidence and technique.

    Photo By Eshaan Chopra

  • Audacity brought the holiday spirit, singing holiday jams in the ugliest of holiday sweaters. For their first appearance since quarantine, the club impressed a grand audience.

    Photo By Eshaan Chopra

  • Seniors say goodbye at their last Winter Concert with an emotional linking of arms. As they sang their final piece, they spun out of their formation at the end, officially ending choir’s winter season.

    Photo By Eshaan Chopra

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Each and every snowflake is unique, but in a flurry, they create a beautiful winter wonderland, just as the choir community did in their annual Winter Concert. On Friday, Dec. 10, Westwood Choir hosted this holiday show at Hope Presbyterian Church. Caroling their way through the night, Grisham Choir, Audacity (Westwood’s show choir club), and choir alumni united with current members, each community bringing the holiday spirit with them. Audience members filled the pews, anticipating the graceful performance ahead. Full of unique song choices, holiday pieces, and ugly Christmas sweaters, this performance alone could grow the Grinch’s heart three sizes.

Opening the show is never an easy task, as the tone of the rest of the night lies in the performance of the opening song. Carefully selected, Vuelie, a song by Frode Fjellheim and arranged by Christoph Beck, was followed by the classic, romantic Ave Maria, constructed by Franz Biebl, which predicted the night to be full of grace and aesthetics. 

“It’s kind of cute, [when Mr. Clark is] conducting and giving everyone their cues for coming in, [as] it feels really good together,” Lasya Adivi ‘23 said. “I like Ave Maria, it’s a fun song to sing with a lot of people.”

Following this eloquent number, an African drum-inspired piece, Bethlehemu, by Via Olatunji and arranged by Wendell Whalum, shook the crowd. This song featured one-of-a-kind drum beats untraditional to Westwood Choir, and even the work of soloists. Memories were created at this moment, and so was the energy to keep the audience on the edge of their pews. 

“That solo was such a unique opportunity for me because not only did I get to sing in front of a bunch of people, but I also got to work with the future generations of Westwood Choirs,” Gabriel Paredes ‘23 said. “You know Jonathan [Simon ’25] and Minsung [Kim ’25] are both really, really talented musicians and getting to work with them to make the solo possible was kind of like passing on the torch for future choir [students].”

Every snowball starts small and rolls down a hill, powering through obstacles, to become bigger. Grisham choir proved that even with a small snowball of voices, their impact is humongous on an audience. Receiving a standing ovation, the sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders evoked many emotions out of their audience. Directed by Ms. Misti Vara, the Grisham Middle School Choir Director, these kids really brought in the holiday spirit. 

“Having five people fill the enormous church by themselves is so difficult because in a small group of people, it is so raw and vulnerable, but they still sang their little hearts out,” Diego Rodriguez ‘22 said. 

Sweaters may keep you warm this winter, but they are a stylish piece that fits the sparkle of Westwood’s show choir club, Audacity. With this being their debut performance since before the pandemic, the club brought the house down with their renditions of Jingle Bell Rock and Winter Song. With a love for music, each member of this performance was a volunteer, spending their Flextime and hours preparing for performances such as these. The smiles of the singers, even if hidden by a mask, were mirrored by the engaged audience.

“I really enjoyed performing with Audacity at the Winter Concert,” Claire Petiprin ‘23 said “I haven’t been in choir for a few years so it was really cool to get to be a part of such a talented group of people again.”

Whether it’s a before-show circle or an after-show retreat to the nearest IHOP, the nature of art is rooted in everlasting tradition. Jamaican Noel, a song by Kirby Shaw, is the root of this heritage for Westwood Choir. Here, many soloists come forward to sing a line of the song, including choir alumni invited to sing with their extended choir family once again. Seniors were excited and emotional throughout this piece, glancing over at each other during their final Winter Concert.

“I really enjoyed singing Jamaican Noel because I have this core memory of being in elementary school and [choir coming to sing] to us in the cold, wearing Santa hats,” Arushi Sharma ‘23 said.  “That’s what made me join choir. So, as the years have gone by, I’ve seen the seniors on stage singing it, and it was so nice to finally be on stage singing it.”

The seniors’ gratitude did not stop here as they soon were front and center stage, holding hands with each other, singing their hearts out. Singing loud and proud, the last song of the night, Lord Bless You and Keep you by Peter C. Lutkin, was the Winter Concert’s goodbye to this year’s seniors. Grasping tightly on each other and spinning one another at the end of the song, this was not only a beautiful moment for students but one for parents watching through teary eyes in the audience. 

“It is kind of sad that this is my last winter concert, but it’s going to be fun visiting as an alumni and still getting the opportunity to be a part of that, as it has now become a Chamber and Alumni thing,” Apoorva Gobburu ‘22 said. 

The choir put their souls into this concert, and that was felt by the audience. To thank their directors, students approached the microphone with flowers for all the hard work Mr. Clark, Ms. King, and Ms. Vara put into this performance. Parents left the church with teary eyes, seniors with wholesome goodbyes, and each and every snowflake of a voice was showcased that night, something Westwood, Grisham, and Audacity choirs should all be proud of.

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