“Singing is Our Birthright” was the title Susan Nace, upper school music teacher, gave to one of the final vocal concerts of the year, featuring three upper school groups at the Nichols Hall auditorium on April 28: Camerata, Cantilena and Guys’ Gig.
Camerata, the mixed choral ensemble, started off with a diverse set of madrigals and jazz tunes. Following the mournful harmonies of John Wilbye’s “Adieu, Sweet Amaryllis,” the mood quickly lightened as the students gathered ‘round the piano (played by Nace) to sing Billy Strayhorn’s “Something to Live For,” followed by a vocal arrangement of Scott Joplin’s famous “Maple Leaf Rag,” during which the students leaped off stage and brought the music directly to the audience by strolling through the aisles as they sang.
Several soloists were featured throughout the show between group performances singing a wide variety of songs from many cultures, including show tunes such as “Somewhere” from “West Side Story,” sung by Cristina Jerney, grade 10, Romantic era pieces such as Sebastian Herscher, grade 11, performing Franz Schubert’s “Der Neugierige” and even one song sung entirely in Chinese by sophomore Rebecca Liu.
Guys’ Gig, as always, were a crowd favorite thanks to their upbeat mood and energetic sense of humor. One of their songs, which integrated a storyline about a socially insecure Harker freshman, combined themes from several famous John Williams scores (including “Star Wars,” “Jurassic Park” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) into a hilarious tribute to “Star Wars” fandom.
Cantilena performed a series of varied and experimental songs, starting off with “O Mama Bakudala,” a traditional tune sung by the women of the South African Xhosa tribe, whose words translate to, “The mothers from way back used to pray.” The continued with classics such as Thomas Morley’s “Sing We and Chant It” and Johannes Brahms’ version of “Ave Maria.” After breaking to make room for solo performances, Cantilena returned to the stage to sing Gwyneth Walker’s “To Sing is to Fly” and the Robert Lowry-penned hymn “How Can I Keep From Singing?” during which they were joined by Daniel Cho, grade 12, who sang “Amazing Grace” with a section of the group.
With the show officially finished, Nace had some special gifts for the departing seniors of Cantilena, who each received a medallion to commemorate her dedication to the group. She also presented Alex Najibi, grade 11, with a new pitch pipe to assist him as he enters the next school year as the new leader of Guys’ Gig.
The students themselves also had a surprise tribute of their own for Nace, gifting her with flowers and assembling on the stage to sing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”