WORTHINGTON - Although unwelcome winter weather events have forced local schools to close their doors on numerous occasions in recent weeks, the show must go on for the Worthington High School (WHS) music department.
The school’s Region 2AA Contest Concert is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in the WHS gymnasium, and it’s free and open to the public.
“We have to do what we can with the shorter amount of time available,” said Melanie Loy, director of the Varsity Strings and the WHS Orchestra.
“It’s understood that we’ve missed several rehearsals but we need to keep forging ahead or we bump into preparations for the spring concert and solo/ensemble contest.”
Hence, her 57 WHS Orchestra students will perform the first movement of Stamitz’s “Sinfonia in D,” as well as Glière’s “Russian Sailor’s Dance.”
“These are approved, quality arrangements because both pieces were originally composed for a full symphonic orchestra,” said Melanie Loy.
“For this concert, there is a list of approved concert repertoire that meets certain standards for contest-level material,” she explained. “We usually aim high so that our students have a good musical challenge even while making sure it’s an attainable level for them.”
The 23 Varsity Orchestra students - primarily freshmen - will play Merle J. Isaac’s arrangement of Dvorák’s “Three Slavonic Dances.”
“That’s a collection of three melodies woven together into one medley,” she said. “And the WHS Orchestra read some Corelli and Handel numbers in December but found ‘Russian Sailor’s Dance’ more exciting to play, with its fast tempos and exciting techniques - like combined pizzicato and tremolos.”
Jon Loy will conduct the WHS Concert Band, featuring 140 student instrumentalists, in a performance of “The Gathering of the Ranks at Hebron” by David R. Holsinger.
“This is a six-minute-long programmatic piece that is based on an important Biblical event at Hebron from the book of Chronicles,” he said.
“For this concert, where the entire music department is represented in presenting music that is a benchmark of sorts for us, we don’t focus on a lot of different numbers but on fewer pieces that challenge and stretch the students’ musicianship and give us an opportunity to better refine the music.”
Even with abbreviated days due to late starts, and the loss of at least five instructional days altogether due to weather-related school closures, Jon Loy believes the audience will enjoy the students’ output.
“The kids have been very productive in the rehearsals we have been able to fit in, so they’ll be ready,” he said.
Kerry Johnson’s two choral ensembles - the 40-voice Varsity Choir and the 68-member Concert Choir - will share music in a variety of styles.
“The Concert Choir is singing ‘Come Let’s Rejoice,’ a Tudor church anthem from the 1500s that’s similar in style to a madrigal,” said Johnson. “It’s very contrapuntal.”
That choir will also perform “Sililiza,” a world music composition by Jim Papoulis sung in Zulu and Spanish. It features percussion accompaniment.
“’Sililiza’ has a higher level of difficulty than many choral numbers in terms of its rhythm, tonality and part-independence,” said Johnson.
The Varsity Choir plans to deliver the a cappella “Bring Me Little Water,” an American Delta blues classic by Huddie Ledbetter.
In great contrast, they will also sing a traditional choral selection by John Leavitt called “Set Me As a Seal,” as well as the emotive “The Awakening” from composer Joseph Martin.
“That’s a contemporary work which discusses how we handle tragic moments in our lives,” related Johnson.
“When something tragic happens, we have the choice to be defined by it or to invent a new path forward, and ‘The Awakening’ involves multiple musical elements and moods and ends on an uplifting, joyful note.”
With so much missed rehearsal time leading up to Monday’s concert, the WHS music teachers have had moments of worry and stress but nevertheless remain confident their student musicians will give it their best effort.
“I feel good about there they are, even though no one wants the week immediately preceding a concert to be interrupted by weather events,” said Johnson.
Added Melanie Loy, “I love this full departmental concert, because the students who are in only one or two ensembles can appreciate what their peers are working on in the other groups, and it creates a rewarding, in-house festival atmosphere.”
Jon Loy points out that about 300 students, or close to one-third of the WHS student body, are involved in at least one of the school’s large group performing ensembles.
“All three of the music staff look forward to this contest concert each year because it shows the depth of the WHS music department and demonstrates how many kids here are immersed in at least one music activity - and many are in more than one,” said Jon Loy.
“And the entire concert should be no more than an hour, which is a comfortable length for both performers and audience members.”
Summarized Johnson, “This is a great opportunity for both the student musicians and the audience to hear a bit of everything the ISD 518 music program has to offer, and I’m excited to see what the kids do on Monday night.”
The WHS Contest Concert takes place at 7 p.m. Monday in the WHS gymnasium, located at 1211 Clary St., Worthington. This concert is free and open to the public.