Westwood Horizon

Westwood Learning Community Concert Unifies Choir Programs

By Anouka Saha, Reporter

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The Chamber Choir performs "Jamaican Noel" to continue their annual tradition.

Representatives from choirs of all schools in the Westwood Learning Community performed their music at a choir concert on Nov. 1 at the Performing Arts Center (PAC). For many students, singing in this concert is a different experience from past performances

“This isn’t my first vertical concert because I did them in middle school,” Ashley Howell ‘21 said, “but it was a lot different this year because it was my first year in Chamber [Choir]. I always remembered seeing Chamber in middle school and wanting to be that. It was just kind of surreal.”

The theme of the concert was Sisi Ni Moja, a Swahili phrase meaning “We are one.” It was written on the front of the program, emphasizing the need for unity in music and the world. To prepare for the concert, students arrived a few hours beforehand so they could run the pieces a few times. This also gave them an opportunity to meet kids from other schools. Everyone was able to learn about others experiences in different music programs in the same vertical community, which was a chance to experience something different from the norm.

“Getting to interact with all the middle and elementary schoolers was so exciting,” Nupur Sampat ‘19 said. “It was nice to see them so excited and participating in a community event.”

The event started with Anderson Mill, Canyon Creek, Purple Sage, Caraway, Laurel Mountain, and Spicewood Elementary Schools, who performed together and sang patriotic songs, including I Love That Grand Old Flag  and Everyday Heroes. These were prepared by the kids for their upcoming Veteran’s Day concert, but they were able to showcase them here and show off their talents. The range of ages at the concert provided for an especially diverse sound.

“The best thing was being able to see the progression of the different ages of students, starting from elementary school choirs,” assistant choir director Ms. Jennifer Alexander said. “It was also important for the [high schoolers’] experience as musicians to remember what it was like to be in those choirs.”

The elementary kids were followed by the varsity choirs from both Canyon Vista and Grisham Middle Schools. The choirs were mixed male and female, and they  performed arrangements of Hosanna, a religious piece, and Loch Lomond, a traditional scottish melody, respectively. The rousing performance was followed by the Varsity Women’s Choir, who sang Dancing Song. It was incredibly fast paced and complex, including wild dynamic contrast and a stellar high note at the end. The Chamber Choir followed, singing a 5-part madrigal titled Flora Gave Me Fairest Flowers. The older kids performance reminded some of their elementary school days.

“It felt nostalgic in a way to perform [for the elementary students],” Howell said. “I could remember what it was like to be them.”

Afterwards, the middle and high school men combined to sing a powerful rendition of The Dawn’s Awake. It was a choral arrangement of a poem by the same name written by Otto Leland Bohanan. Their piece was followed by the middle and high school women gathering to sing Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie. They added a new layer of sound to it with body percussion. But the music wasn’t just learned in everyone’s respective schools. Two days before the concert, the middle school singers were bused in to practice with the high schoolers and prepared the pieces together. It was an opportunity to coordinate and figure out how everyone’s voices would blend together. The concert finished with all the choirs banding together to sing Sisi Ni Moja, the song off which the theme of the concert was picked. While Mr. Raul Vara, head director at Canyon Vista, played the drums, students from elementary to high school sang. The sound filled the PAC, making it a large, unified ending to the concert.

“I learned how to work with everyone to sing well,” Manda Skevofilax ‘21 said. “It was a really interesting experience.”

It was a unique experience for all, an opportunity to show the benefit of getting together and making music and to get to know others in the Westwood learning community better. Hopefully, the effects of this concert will inspire the younger children’s love for music. The choir’s next concert is on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at the PAC.

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