As one member of the audience put it, “Can I just say, ‘WOW’!” Indeed. Indeed, you can. As did I; because we did it again!
On the night of September 21st, 2017, Christa McAuliffe Middle School put on it’s first ever music department concert. It showcased our incredible, dedicated students in band and strings, from beginning through advanced. As hundreds of audience members made their way into the MPR (the biggest turnout we’ve ever had), they could not have imagined the level of excellence and the quality of the show they were about to experience.
The night began with our intermediate strings students taking the stage by storm. They showed off their four string warm-up fearlessly, demonstrating their ability to cross strings. They then performed a rousing version of “Hot Cross Buns” (utilizing quarter notes, half notes and whole notes on three pitches), and finished with “Good King Wenceslas”, an old traditional carol about a 10th-century monarch who went out into the severe cold to give charity to the poor.
After thunderous applause, Concert Band took the stage. A group of beginners and intermediate players, they entered the stage with an impressive air of professionalism. After a brief warm-up, they performed a piece called “Listen to Our Sections”, which featured the various sections of the band and demonstrated a sophisticated sense of independence within the ensemble. The audience roared as the band finished playing the second repeat of the piece, which went at a fast “allegro” tempo!
They went on to play a duet entitled “London Bridge”. The 17-member band did an excellent job of balancing the parts, and many audience members claimed they sounded at least twice as big as they were! Next came “Frere Jacques”, a technically challenging piece that featured the use of dynamics. Starting at a whisper, the piece ended with a roar. Particularly notable were the percussion, who demonstrated great dynamic control! Finally, the band finished with a fun number called “Old McDonald Had A Band”. This was a thrilling way to end their segment as it featured drum set and cowbell. Beyond that, the students were able to play the entire piece without a conductor!
The Advanced Orchestra then entered the stage with the confidence of seasoned players who have been there before. Starting with an appropriately titled piece called “Night at Symphony Hall”, the audience was pulled in with the triumphant declaration of “Trumpet Voluntary”, the dignified poise of Brahms’ “Symphony No. 1” and the thrilling adventure of the “William Tell Overture”. The orchestra then slowed it down for a popular favorite in “A Whole New World” which inevitably got every child in the audience singing along to the sweet sounds of the violins. The orchestra concluded with a thrilling piece called “Dragon Slayer” in which they sonically did battle with the fantastic beast and finished their portion of the concert with a snarl!
The evening concluded with a performance by the award-winning CMMS Wind Ensemble. They took to the stage with elegance and repose, warming up and tuning on their own. With little preamble, they launched into their first piece, “Comet Ride”. Beginning with an aura of mystery, the piece quickly launches into a powerful opening statement which builds to a caesura (a break in the music). The audience was immediately captivated as the band catapulted itself into a fast-paced, high energy adventure through the aural cosmos and finished with a resounding “big bang”!
After raucous applause, the 43 member ensemble moved on to a student favorite, “Abandoned Treasure Hunt”. The piece conveys a sense of thrill and danger likened to a story about pirates and hidden treasure. With incredible amounts of refined percussion writing, sweeping eighth and sixteenth notes in the saxophones and flutes, and a mechanical sense of independence throughout the band, the performance was a complete success.
We celebrated the birthday of one of our band members with an impromptu performance of “Happy Birthday”, then went into an emotional piece which was dedicated to the victims of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and the earthquake in Mexico City. “…At Twilight” featured soloists Madeleine Chesley, Teresa Ducusin, Dulce Barragan and Hannah Drullard. The piece rose and fell with grace and sensitivity, equal parts hopeful and tragic. With one final Bb major chord and the soothing sound of the bells, the piece ended with a beautiful sense of resolve which left the audience approaching tears.
We finished the night with a celebratory piece entitled “Arabian Dances”. The clarinet solo played by Sarena Hale was reported to “bring tears” to the eyes of many in the audience. Also featuring Dulce Barragan on flute and Malachi Antillon on xylophone, the mysterious opening gave way to a raucous celebration as the brass established a blazing ostinato (repeating pattern in music). With clapping, shouting, and unbelievable technical dexterity in the woodwinds, the piece raced to a thrilling, victorious close. The band was greeted with 15-20 seconds of applause and many audience members were moved to their feet. The night was thrilling, captivating and will be one to remember forever!
Thank you to all of the parents and audience members who helped make the night so successful, from helping with the potluck to tearing down to supporting your children in music education. We would be nowhere without you! Similarly, many thanks go to our administration (Mr. Kirby and Mr. Howard) for their unwavering support, to Scott (our night custodian) and to our wonderful counselors Sue Atterberry and Mary Jo Andrada, without whom we would not have students in our classes!
As we say in show business, the show must go on! We will see you again in November for a benefit concert put on with the PTSA, and in December for a joint concert at Bear Creek High School. We couldn’t be more proud of our students, and you should be very proud of your children!
Director of Bands
Christa McAuliffe Middle School