Reprinted from the Harker Quarterly March 2010 issue
WinterSong: Bel Canto and Friends
Bel Canto and fellow performers wowed the crowd with a Conservatory concert held on Jan. 22 at Nichols Hall. At WinterSong, this ensemble of Gr. 9-10 singers sang songs from a wide range of genres, including Harry Belafonte’s “Turn the World Around” and a moving rendition of Eric Whitacre’s “Five Hebrew Love Songs,” which was considered to be the group’s most ambitious work ever. They also sang a spiritual, a piece in Latin, and ‘60s staple “Bye Bye, Love.” Elodie Nguyen, Gr. 12, accompanied the group on the piano, and they were directed by Catherine Snider. Eight Conservatory Certificate candidates also performed solos at the concert, with works ranging from junior Shireen Moshkelani’s “When I Have Sung My Songs” by Ernest Charles to sophomore Alex Najibi’s rendition of Giuseppe Verdi’s “La donna e mobile.” Andrew Lee, Gr. 10, played his own four-movement Baroque-style composition on the piano and Lydia Demissachew, Gr. 11, played Johannes Brahms’ “Rhapsody, Op. 70 No. 2.” John Ammatuna, Gr. 11, was accompanied by Diane Villadsen, Gr. 11, on a song from “South Pacific”; also singing were Vrinda Goel, Gr. 11, Sebastian Herscher, Gr. 10 and Nina Sabharwal, Gr. 9.
As Harker’s instrumental program has grown significantly in the past few years, directors Chris Florio, Louis Hoffman and Toni Woodruff split the annual winter showcase into two parts. Despite the change, both concerts, held Jan. 15, were packed and the showcase was a rousing success. The early evening show featured Woodruff’s Lower School String Ensemble, the new Lower School Jazz Ensemble led by Hoffman and Hoffman’s Lower School Orchestra.
Florio’s Gr. 6 and Gr. 7-8 orchestras closed the concert with Brahms, Fauré and Tchaikovsky compositions. The second show included Florio’s Jazz Band, featuring front singer Francesca Nagle, Gr. 11, singing smooth tunes and impressive solos from sax player Aadithya Prakash, Gr. 12 and trombonist Benjamin Tien, Gr. 11. The Harker Orchestra also performed all four movements of Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 1,” a Smetana overture and the humorous “Hungarian Dance” of Brahms.
Dance Production: Percussion Pathways
Harker dancers hit the stage Jan. 29 and 30 in Percussion Pathways, this year’s theme for the ever-popular annual upper school dance production. Choreographers selected percussion-heavy music and were challenged by director Laura Rae to create dances that allowed them to “move to their own drummers.”
Student choreographers worked with Harker dance teachers Rae and Karl Kuehn, and dancers Heidi Landgraf, Adrian Bermudez and Sasha Stepanenko ’06 to create a three-part show, taking the audience through Harker school life into an exploration of larger themes about belonging, suffering and mystery. Some students, including Johnny Lau, Gr. 12 and Malika Mehrotra, Gr. 11, also had the opportunity to choreograph their own dances for the show, putting out toe-tappers and crowd-movers to “Break It Down” by Manu Dibango and “Shadowplay” by The Killers.
Dance Jamz Electrifies Audiences
Dance Jamz, the annual middle school dance show, energized audiences in early March, as nearly 150 dancers from all middle school grade levels performed several dance styles. The show ran March 4-6, first showcasing the students’ talents for Gr. 5, then entertaining their middle school classmates and finally performing for friends and family.
Directed by middle school dance teacher Gail Palmer, with co-direction by dance teachers Amalia Vasconi and Karl Kuehn, the show highlighted swing, contemporary modern, musical theater and hip-hop, with elements of Bollywood and Latin. The dynamic lighting by middle school performing arts teacher Paul Vallerga brought more flair to each performance, including a dramatic shot of silhouetted hiphop dancers. Students and parents alike were thrilled to see the talented young dancers perform their hearts out onstage!
The second annual Conservatory Classic, “An Evening with Past, Present and Future Harker Stars,” brought together the Harker community at the end of winter break, with proceeds going towards the performing arts program. Vocal and musical theater alumni Kartik Venkatraman ’09, Stephanie Kim ’08, Siobhan Stevenson ’07 and many others returned to campus to perform collaborative pieces with current students.
Graduated Guys’ Gig members joined the current crew in song. A string octet, an alumni jazz combo and solos from students were also performed to highlight Harker’s performing arts in preparation for Phase 4 of the school’s master site plan – a new performing and visual arts center. For more information on Harker’s performing arts programs, e-mail K-Gr. 12 department chair Laura Lang-Ree at firstname.lastname@example.org.