This article originally appeared in the spring 2015 Harker Quarterly.
“United Voices,” Harker’s annual celebration of vocal music, returned to the Mexican Heritage Plaza Theater in early February. The concert featured a wide range of vocal groups from the lower, middle and upper schools, performing classical pieces, renditions of modern pop songs, selections from musicals, traditional songs from various cultures and much more. The Bucknall Choir greeted the evening audience with its rendition of the enduring hymn “Ubi Caritas” before making way for the middle school choirs to perform the Zambian traditional “Bonse Aba.” The middle school groups then performed individually. Other highlights included the upper school women’s group Cantilena singing Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria,” show choir Downbeat’s rollicking version of the Brian Setzer hit “Rock This Town” and the evening’s finale, in which all performers gathered on stage to sing “Circle of Life,” from the classic Disney film “The Lion King.”
Lower School Singers Greet the Holiday Season
A huge cast of performers from grades 2 and 3 took the stage at the Bucknall Theater on Dec. 18 for the annual Holiday Show. Dozens of students, directed by music teacher Carena Montany, sang a variety of songs to celebrate the holiday season, from classics “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” “O Chanukah, O Chanukah” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” to newer fare including “Let It Go,” from the hit film “Frozen.”
The show ran smoothly thanks to the hard work of technical director Danny Dunn and her grade 5 technical theater class, as well as deck manager Ken Boswell and stage manager Stephanie Woolsey. Choreography was done by Kimberly Teodoro, and Melissa Lin and Toni Woodruff provided accompaniment on piano and violin, respectively.
Annual Grade 1 Show Celebrates the Spirit of the Holidays
Days before the start of winter break, the homeroom students of Imelda Kusuma, Cindy Proctor, Larissa Weaver and Rita Stone gathered for the holiday show, titled “My Favorite Time of Year.” Directed by Carena Montany, the concert featured students singing holiday favorites such as “Frosty the Snow Man,” “Jingle Bells” and “Spin a Little Dreidl,” with students doing narration between songs. The performance of “Little Saint nick” featured several dancers, with choreography by Jessalyn Espiritu.
Instrumental accompaniment was provided by pianist Melissa Lin and violinist Toni Woodruff. Danny Dunn and her grade 5 technical theater class served as the technical director and crew, respectively.
‘Wild’ Upper School Show Features 130 Dancers
“Welcome to the Jungle,” the title of this year’s upper school dance production, took audiences into the wild for a jungle-themed romp that featured a cast of more than 130 dancers performing in sync to songs by artists including Guns n’ Roses, Phil Collins, Bjork and Lil Jon. The production was a showcase for student choreographers as well as dancers, with seniors Jacqui Villarreal, Sindhu Ravuri, Ryan Pachauri, Darby Millard, Erika Olsen, Andrew Zhang, noel Banerjee and Ashir Bansal, and juniors Emily Pan, Ankita Sharma, Helena Dworak and Allison Wang choreographing routines.
Singers Perform with State and National Honor Choirs
Five Upper School singers successfully auditioned for the California American Choral Directors Association’s All-State Honor Choir. Ishanya Anthapur, grade 12, was named to the mixed choir; Madhu Karra and Sahana narayanan, both grade 11, earned spots in the women’s choir; and Ashwin Rao, grade 10, and Gurutam Thockchom, grade 11, will join the men’s choir. Earlier this year, Anthapur and Narayanan were named to ACDA’s Regional Honor Choir. Rehearsals began in March for a special performance at the First United Methodist Church of Pasadena on March 28.
At the American Choral Directors Association’s national conference in late February, Karli Sharp, grade 8, performed with the Middle School national Girls Honor Choir, conducted by Elena Sharkova, chorus master of Symphony Silicon Valley and an expert on the choral music of Russia.
Winter Concert Showcases Middle and Upper School Musicians
Middle and upper school music groups gave their first concert of the new year on Jan. 16 at the 2015 Winter Concert at the Mexican Heritage Plaza Theater. Performers included the two middle school jazz bands, the Grade 6 Orchestra, the Grades 7-8 Orchestra, The Harker School Jazz Band and The Harker School Orchestra. Among the many highlights was a special appearance by the middle school chamber groups, which performed both modern and classical pieces, including works by Bach and Green Day. The Harker Lab Band also made an appearance, playing a series of jazz selections by Duke Ellington, Fred Sturm and more. The Harker School Orchestra closed the evening, playing the entirety of Dvořák’s “Symphony no. 9” (popularly known as the “new World Symphony”) and Giuseppe Verdi’s “Overture to La Forza del Destino.”
Fifth Graders Bring Pinocchio to Life
This year’s grade 5 show, held Jan. 29-30 at the Bucknall Theater, brought together a huge cast of 130 students for “no Strings Attached,” an updated musical adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s classic novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio.” Directed by Kellie Binney-Smart, the production followed the familiar tale of a wooden puppet’s quest to become a real boy and the challenges he encounters along the way, teaching him the value of friendship and honesty. The massive task of directing so many students could not have been undertaken without the help of a skilled and dedicated crew, which included Danny Dunn and her lower school technical theater class, costumer Carol Clever, stage manager Ken Boswell, deck managers Jordan Wong and Daniel Clark ’10, scenic artist Whitney Pintello, microphone managers Randy LeGris and Oanhna Ly and choreographer Jessalyn Espiritu.
Orchestra Takes First in Portland Festival
The Harker Orchestra took top honors at the northwest Orchestra Festival held near Portland, Ore., March 6 and 7! The musicians performed so well that “judges decided that a final round was not necessary to determine the winner, despite us competing as the smallest school in our division!” said Chris Florio, orchestra director. The annual middle and high school event is held at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, adjacent to Portland.
Harker competed in Division IVF (full orchestra). “We were actually supposed to be in Division IIIF (schools with 1,300 students or fewer), but I was advised to compete in Division IV (1,301 students or more) since it’s more competitive.”
Florio thinks it likely Harker received the highest score of any group at the festival. “There were around 40 or more groups there,” he noted. “One judge gave us a perfect score. The orchestra director from the University of Portland was one of our judges, and he half jokingly offered our entire orchestra admission to his school.”
All in all, it was tremendous experience. “As a last minute honor, the festival director asked us to perform a command performance for the entire group of attendees,” said Florio. “He felt we were so exceptional that it would be a great experience for the other groups and judges to hear us.”
Dancers Perform at London New Year’s Day Parade
Seniors Darby Millard and Noel Banerjee headed to London in late December to perform in the London new Year’s Day parade. “The two dancers earned an invitation this past summer while at the United Spirit Association Dance Camp, for their exceptional technique and performance skills,” said Karl Kuehn, upper school dance teacher. Aside from their performance in the parade, the students also went sightseeing around The Big Smoke and caught a performance of the musical “Wicked.”
Senior Earns Place in National Orchestra – Again
Helen Wu, grade 12, has landed a spot on the national Youth Orchestra for the second consecutive year. “This group has quickly become the country’s premier honor for high school orchestral musicians,” said Chris Florio, upper school music teacher and orchestra director. The orchestra will embark on a tour of China over the summer, performing with famed Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit and pianist Yundi Li and premiering a new work by composer Tan Dun, the Grammy- and Academy Award-winning composer of the score for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
Harker Instrumentalists Named to All-State Honor Bands
In January, several Harker students were named to the California Band Directors Association All-State honor ensembles. Trumpeter Jack Farnham, grade 10, and clarinetists Kristen Park and Cynthia Hao, both grade 11, successfully auditioned for spots in the high school band, while clarinetists Nishka Ayyar, grade 8, and Jenny Shaw, grade 7, were named to the junior high school concert band. The students performed with their respective ensembles at the California Music Educators Association Conference in Fresno, held Feb. 19-22, rehearsing with students and performing for mu- sic educators from across California.