AHS Winter Concert: a New World Hallelujah
Updated: Jan 22, 2019
It may be the season of diminishing daylight, but anyone who attends the Arlington High School (AHS) Winter Concert on the evening of Friday, Dec. 14, will probably feel enlightened and inspired by the music that fills Lowe Auditorium. If the final movement of Antonín Dvořák’s "New World Symphony" doesn’t lift you out of your seat with its propulsive intensity, the great rejoicing of the "Hallelujah" chorus from George Frideric Handel’s "Messiah" is likely to put a spring in your step as you head out into the cold winter night.
The Handel will be performed by the combined forces of all the AHS choral ensembles under the direction of Madalyn Kitchen and the full orchestra conducted by Sabato (“Tino”) D’Agostino. “The 'Hallelujah' chorus is so appropriate at this time of year,” noted Kitchen, “but [its difficulty] is a little daunting. Once Tino assured me that his students were up for the challenge, we took the idea and ran with it. We are thrilled that the students have been working so hard to make the piece every bit as exhilarating as Handel intended!”
For his part, D’Agostino noted that the Winter Concert is the first AHS performance of the year for many ninth graders and new students. “It feels special,” he said, “because of the upcoming holidays and the uniqueness of the repertoire. This year we go from Michael Jackson to Dvořák, from Mozart to William Schumann, and from Herbie Hancock to Gustav Holst. We are trying to give our students experience in as many genres and styles as possible.”
This Winter Concert will also be unique because three new ensembles will be making their debut. These are the Freshmen Choir, a men’s ensemble called Bros II Men, and a women’s choir called Bel Canto. According to Kitchen, “the freshmen ensemble gives the students a safe space to develop their skills and work toward joining the Arlington Chorale in the future.” One of the pieces they will be performing is the Israeli folk tune “Zum Gali Gali.”
Bros II Men, which is directed by Ottoson Middle School teacher Greg Condakes, will offer three pieces, including the classic doo-wop number “In the Still of the Night.” Bel Canto will perform the traditional spiritual “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” and “Cantate Domino” by Monteverdi. Among the Madrigal Singers’ offerings will be the pop standard “Misty” by Johnny Burke and Erroll Garner famously sung by Johnny Mathis.
Other highlights of the program will include "Newsreel (In Five Shots)" by William Schumann performed by the concert band and the Michael Jackson hit “Human Nature” by Steve Porcaro performed by the jazz band, with both ensembles under the direction of student intern Anthony Abate. The honors orchestra will offer the "Jig" from Holst’s "St. Paul’s Suite" and Camille Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Opus 33. The full orchestra will wrap up with the first movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and the last movement of Dvořák’s "New World Symphony" before combining with all the choral groups to present the "Hallelujah" chorus.
Cello soloist for the Saint-Saëns concerto will be junior Sarah Kam, who also plays with the Boston Youth Symphony Repertory Orchestra. Having worked on the piece steadily for about four months, she said she’s “pretty excited” about playing it, especially the challenging “fiddley bits” that require her fingers to “move like noodles.” “With all the hubbub about the AHS renovations,” she added, “the concert is a good reason for Arlington residents to come to the school and see what one of the more underrepresented departments can do.”
Although perhaps less publicized than AHS athletic events, the activities of the Performing Arts Department are well known to many, including Arlington Public Schools (APS) superintendent Kathleen Bodie. “At this concert,” D’Agostino said, “we would like to commend Ms. Bodie for her wonderful support of the performing arts since she became superintendent ten years ago. She never misses a concert, play, or musical if she can help it, and she’s been one of our strongest advocates.”
You don’t have to be an APS administrator or even affiliated with the school system to appreciate the AHS Winter Concert. As Kitchen noted, “it’s intended for people of all ages and backgrounds. We’ll be doing folk songs, jazz and pop hits, and of course, some beautiful classical pieces for all to be edified and moved by. With the addition of three new choirs, this program will be even more beautifully varied and enjoyable for all!"