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WMS orchestra, choir students tuned up for fall concert

The Worthington Middle School eighth-grade choir performs during a concert during the 2010-2011 school year. A sixth-grade vocal group of 88, a seventh-grade choir of 110 and an eighth-grade chorus of 104 will each perform Tuesday night at Worthington High School.

WORTHINGTON -- Nearly 400 Worthington Middle School (WMS) students will be in concert Tuesday evening when the school's sixth- through eighth-grade choirs and fifth- through eighth-grade string players demonstrate the skills they have learned over the past nine weeks.

"The quarter has gone quickly -- time really flies -- but we are excited for the first concert of the year," assured Cindy Anderson, WMS choral and general music instructor, who is joined in leading the performance by orchestra director Melanie Loy. "We're just getting our feet wet -- especially the sixth-graders -- but I want the kids to channel their inner performers for this one."

Anderson, in the midst of her 25th year of teaching, will present a sixth-grade group of 88, a seventh-grade choir of 110 and an eighth-grade chorus of 104. Each age group will sing two different numbers, with choreography included on at least one song per level.

"The sixth-graders get to do some scat singing, and that particular song also features Jacob Prunty on bass guitar and Drew Olsen on percussion," noted Anderson. "My seventh-graders are doing one piece incorporating sign language, and my favorite verse of that reads, 'When we stand together singing, we are all the same,' essentially pointing out that music takes away all our differences."

Anderson's eighth- graders will get in the salsa swing with "Oye la Musica," sung in both English and Spanish, and then share "Follow the Drinking Gourd."

"'Follow the Drinking Gourd' is about African Americans making their way to freedom by following the North star and other signs, and it ties very nicely into the eighth-grade history curriculum," revealed Anderson.

Another special feature will be "Thank You, Soldiers," a tribute to U.S. veterans.

"My nine eighth-grade Festival Singers group -- an auditioned ensemble -- will offer a sneak peek of the song they will perform at the middle school's Nov. 9 Veterans Day program," said Anderson.

Meanwhile, the WMS orchestra students -- 94 in all -- will warm up the crowd with a mix of American folk tunes, musical theater favorites, classics and a few seasonal numbers thrown in for flair.

"This is the second year with fifth-graders at the middle school, and 43 of them are in orchestra -- it's a big group," explained Loy, who also conducts the Worthington High School orchestra.

"The 18 sixth-graders advance to concert orchestra literature, including 'Gargoyles' -- a fun minor-key piece -- and 'Beauty and the Beast,' which recalls the summer community musical here, and several of the sixth graders were in the show."

The combined seventh-/eighth-grade orchestra, with 33 instrumentalists, will play what Loy calls "a haunting minor-key melody, appropriate with Halloween approaching," intriguingly titled "Rosin-Eating Zombies from Outer Space."

"It involves tremolos, glissandos, pizzicato and playing squeaky sounds behind the bridges of their instruments, so it's a sneaky but fun way to incorporate different techniques and special effects they don't always get to try," detailed Loy.

The senior middle school orchestra ensemble also will perform "Dos Fuegos" and will finish their set with the lyrical "Evening Prayer" from the Humperdinck opera "Hansel and Gretel."

"It's been a continuing adjustment, and a challenge to still fit in enough time for practice with the school day beginning earlier [WMS switched its start time from 8 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. shortly after the school year began]," expressed Loy, "but we will forge ahead, and I know the kids are excited for this first concert."

The Worthington Middle School choir and orchestra students perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Worthington High School gymnasium. The concert is free and open to the public.