Concert Review: Holiday concert shares all that is right with the world

The program for the evening
Most people do not really get into the Christmas spirit until the radio stations start pumping out their holiday music, but why sit in the car and listen to static when you can experience it live? Lampeter-Strasburg invites members of the community every year to their student holiday concert, an event that packs the PAC. Even people who do not know performers still come down to experience the wonderful music that these high school students create, and this Thursday was no exception, when the groups gathered to share the fruits of their work since the beginning of the year.

The high school band, orchestra, chorus, and madrigals groups practice with intense fervor for the big night. It is a tradition at L-S, and many students in the musical clubs celebrate Christmas, so the songs resonate with them on a personal level, giving more meaning to their work. And honestly, the emotion can be felt in the music.

A hush falls over the enormous crowd as chorus members, dressed in blue and white floor-length robes, make their way to the stage. Most do not notice the band setting up on either side of the auditorium. Then, Ave Maria begins. What a stunning work! The lights are turned low, focusing on the performers, and every note feels drenched in drama. Unlike most school concerts, these high school students come prepared to entertain. When glancing around the theater, wide grins can be seen on parents’ faces, full of pride and even child-like excitement. This is what they have been waiting for.
The concert opened with "Ave Maria"; Ben Pontz played a
baritone solo, and Mason Hess played a french horn solo

The lights are then brought to the front for a welcome by Mr. Spencer, where he parodies "Twas the Night Before Christmas: and makes it about school. The audience chuckles, but that quickly stops when the spotlight shifts to the chorus members, a group filled with gifted singers. Eight members have either made it to County or District Chorus, an achievement that demonstrates their prowess. They sing both traditional and more modern Christmas carols, but no matter what song they are singing, the students’ faces show the emotion that they pour into the words that they sing. The band also accompanies some pieces, and Connor Brown and Matt Rhoades play the piano. Overall, it is the perfect way to begin the concert.
Members of the concert choir sing the traditional "Veni Emmanuel"

Now, some students grumble about the orchestra’s long list of pieces, but their performance makes a long time feel like a few minutes. Each string is plucked with such care and dexterity that some can forget that these are high school students. Personal favorites include Concerto Grosso in G Minor, Op. 6, No. 8 by A. Corelli, when Lauren Mast, Kelly Harnish, and Mackenzie Malcolm got a chance to sit in the spotlight, and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, arranged by C. Custer. However, one piece sticks out in the mind, and that is Dreams of Fireflies by P. O’Neill, arranged by B. Phillips. Melissa Long steps to the front of the stage and pulls out a bright blue electric violin, an instrument relatively foreign to the audience. The instrument plugs into an amplifier and emits a pleasantly clear string sound, bringing added dimension to the back-and-forth piece. Also, the addition of band horns and percussion spices up the strings. This helps to add new life into the performance.
The orchestra portion of the concert closed with "A Christmas Festival"

Chorus singers then reconvene at the stage, but now, they are no longer part of that group. They hold a place in the Madrigals, the District's elite group of singers. Their sensational voices blast them to the top, and that skill can be heard even in the very back row. Logan Emmert accompanies with piano, and Mackenzie Malcolm brings her cello, too, to add some depth to While The Snow Lay Sleeping by J. Parker and H. Sorenson. This piece definitely conveys the cool, crisp sensation that a person gets while looking out on freshly fallen snow. The last piece brought the mood up to Christmas Eve, full of excitement and cheer. Here We Come A-Caroling, arranged by K. Shaw, perfectly demonstrates the happiness that all people feel around the holidays. The jumpy jazz elements, such as the shaker egg and snapping, perfectly ends the spectacular performance.
The Madrigals sing "Silent Night" arranged in a Pentatonix style

Being one of the largest groups on stage, the band definitely makes an impression with every song it plays. Each group of instruments knows how to complement each group around them. The band plays two songs first, Gaudete and Candlelight Carol, that exemplify Christmas music. It is heavy on a nice horn and bell mix, one that most associate with traditional holiday music. Patapan, though, takes a different route, with its focus on the percussion section. The percussion instruments could have easily drowned all others out, but the students that work this section have a deft hand, and they know how to control their instruments well, making this piece truly magnificent. Lastly, Jingle Bells Forever, arranged by Robert W. Smith, rang out through the auditorium, its boisterous, patriotic holiday sound bringing the band performance to a close.

The Hallelujah Chorus from “The Messiah” by George Frederick Handel was supposed to follow right afterwards, but band director Mr. Larry Royer had one more order of business -- it was choir director Mr. Erik Welchans' birthday. The whole crowd belted out this piece for Mr. Welchans, who beamed and bowed to the audience.

Finally, for the evening's culmination, the choir and orchestra combine to perform the "Hallelujah Chorus". Alumni, faculty, staff, and whoever else wants to join in can walk up to the stage and stand with the chorus members. Many teachers do join together on stage, as well as family members and friends, their faces radiating good cheer as they chat with singers closest to them. The energy in the room hints to the fact that this is the moment a lot of people look forward to throughout the concert. As the song starts, their voices ring out, heartfelt and true. Members of the audience stand up collectively, captivated by the power of this rendition. It did not matter who was beside you or what you believed. Everyone felt compelled by the pure Christmas spirit of the moment.
In an L-S tradition unlike any other, everyone joined together
for the Hallelujah Chorus

The next day, these musical groups would have to perform these songs all over again to a less than receptive crowd, compared to the night before, but in reality, it is not about pleasing the audience. It is about performing music that sends the heart into the holiday season. Even if the majority of the audience maintains a bored air, they cannot help but listen to the Christmas cheer in the music and feel the message within. The high school students do a wonderful job every year, and this year was no exception. In fact, with everything going on around the world right now, this holiday concert was needed and appreciated more than words could ever express. Because if all else fails around us, we will always have our holiday spirit.

--Lillian Murr, School News Editor

Edited: BP

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