At last month’s upper school winter choral concert, women’s vocal group Cantilena was joined by three Harker alumnae who are now faculty members. Upper school journalism teacher Whitney Huang ’08, upper school English teacher Bridget Nixon ’12 and middle school science teacher Kathy Peng ’05 – all former Cantilena members – gathered onstage with the current Cantilena lineup to perform Norwegian composer Frode Fjellheim’s “Eatnemen Vuelie.” They also sang “Truth” by Andrea Ramsay as a trio.
The collaboration was the idea of music teacher Susan Nace, who reached out to the three alumnae at the beginning of the school year. They began rehearsing once a week in October, and even though they were all from different graduating classes, greatly enjoyed the experience of working on music together. “Although I didn’t necessarily know all the other alumni at the time while I was at Harker, because I’m a lifer I’ve crossed paths with many Cantilena alums,” said Huang, who was involved with performing arts throughout her student life at Harker and currently sings with two local choral groups. “Being back in the same classroom … really brings back memories of what Cantilena used to be like.”
The concert presented Nixon with an opportunity to perform again, which she had not done much of in recent years due to being focused on her teaching career. “I like getting to sing again, and we all have this shared experience of being part of Cantilena, which is pretty unique,” said Nixon, who started singing as a middle school student. “Susan has been generous with her time and expertise, and I’m grateful that she has given us this opportunity to sing together.”
Peng, who became a member of Cantilena the same year Nace formed the group and sang for several years after graduating from Harker, described the experience of being directed by her former teacher as “kind of surreal,” adding that she was honored to have been asked to be part of the concert. “It is a testament to the impact that Ms. Nace had on me and her other students that we would feel drawn to sing together again, after all these years, and under the circumstances of the pandemic,” she said.