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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Orchestra Sets Stage Aglow at Winter Concert

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  • Reading their sheet music, Avi Rajesh ’25 performs Nocturne by Gustav Holst. Students received their music for this concert in October, giving them just over two months to learn and master it.

  • The Wind Symphony plays together at the Christmas concert. For the past month, the band has rehearsed Christmas music to perform for family and friends. “I think [the concert] went great,” Kylie Bojorquez ‘24 said. “The bands did a great job.”

    Courtesy of Warrior Band
  • Alongside her fellow violinists, Iris Chen ’26 delves into slow-paced Nocturne by Gustav Holst with passion. Chen was a principal player in Philharmonic 4, performing a solo during the evening.

  • Boldly, Vivian Hapka ’26 performs a piece from the Ancient Wonders Suite by Todd Parrish. A fan-favorite, the Ancient Wonders Suite introduced vivid storytelling and flare to the night.

  • With precision, Benjamin Schuler ’26 performs Abdelazer Suite, originally composed by Henry Purcell. The Abdelazer Suite engaged the audience with its bold themes and rhythm.

  • Thanking the audience, Orchestra Director Colleen Whatley beams at her students. This is Ms. Whatley’s first year teaching Orchestra at Westwood, having previously worked as an Orchestra Director at Pearson Ranch Middle School.

  • Following his solo, Concert violinist Brian Li ’26 meticulously performs Abendstern by Lauren Bernofsky. The Concert Orchestra introduced festive themes to the evening, playing a variety of seasonal songs.

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For 80 minutes, sustained string sounds reverberated around the Raymond E. Hartfield Performing Arts Center (PAC) walls, interrupted only by the occasional change of orchestra and audience applause. Melodies descended through harmonic landscapes and shimmering cadences, creating an evening of festive spirit and storytelling.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, Westwood Orchestra showcased the semester’s progress and program talent at their annual Winter Concert, held at the PAC.

Under the baton of Orchestra Director Joshua Thompson, the concert began with the Beginning Strings Orchestra. Beginning Strings delved into Lightly Row, a traditional folk song, before performing Brain Balmage’s Two Winter Sketches, setting a festive tone for the evening. The Camerata Orchestra followed, beginning with L’Arlésienne, Suite No. 1, IV. Carillon, a spirited and uplifting piece. 

“I was very impressed by Camerata and Beginner Orchestra’s playing,” Philharmonic 2 violist Aryan Bandi ‘25 said. “I thought they [sounded] really advanced.”

Next to take the stage, Concert Orchestra plunged into Winter Walk arranged by Brendan McBrien, with instruments accentuating dynamics to curate a suspenseful ambiance. Providing melodic juxtaposition, Lauren Dernofsky’s Abendstern followed — a profound, elegant arrangement. Orchestra members credited the seamless execution of the concert to the work of directors and students over the past two and a half months.

“We rehearsed [our music] every day in class and [in] a few after-school rehearsals as well,” Philharmonic 2 violinist Mahathi Harith ‘25 said. “[Most] of us practiced at home too.”

Sustaining the bold themes established earlier in the evening, Philharmonic 2 began their performance with Deborah Baker Monday’s adaptation of Abdelazer Suite: Rondeau by Henry Purcell. Bass notes instilled lush depth to the number, accentuating its charismatic melody. Completing their time on stage, Philharmonic 2 introduced vivid storytelling through the Ancient Wonders Suite, movements III, The Great Pyramid at Giza, and IV, Statue of Zeus at Olympia

“[I loved] the Ancient Wonders Suite because we got to play with a timpani,” Bandi said. “It’s interesting because the first time we played with them was on stage, at the concert. But it was full of surprises, and I enjoyed the piece.”

Lyrical contrast abound in Philharmonic 4’s performance, the evening concluded with a radiant repertoire. Imparting a lively timbre, Symphony No. 3 in C minor by Camille Saint-Saëns commenced, preceding Moorside Suite, II. Nocturne by Gustav Holst. Bringing the night to a close, Philharmonic 4 dazzled the audience with Choreography, III. Allegro Animato by Norman Dello Joio, exhibiting technical mastery.

“My favorite piece was Nocturne,” Neelima Nair ‘24 said. “I love slow, emotional pieces. [They] can be nuanced and exaggerated in a way that every detail is heard.”

In addition to showcasing program caliber, the Winter Concert displayed improvement since their Autumn Concert.

“I think that at the start of the school year, we kind of played individually, but now, especially at this concert, we play together as a cohesive unit,” Bandi said. “The Orchestra community has come together this year.”

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About the Contributor
Chloe Oakley
Chloe Oakley, Campus News Editor
Class of 2025 Looking forward to another year as a part of Student Press, I am especially excited to be serving as Campus News Editor for an organization I so cherish. Beyond an obvious love for writing, my primary interests include literature and music. In the rare moments you find me outside the newsroom, I am likely hiking, fulfilling my love for coffee, or escaping into a thriller novel.

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