WORTHINGTON — An abundance of holiday tunes and exuberant young musicianship will be on full display when the orchestras, choirs and bands of Worthington Middle School present their Festival of Music Holiday Concert at 7 p.m. Monday.
Taking place in the Worthington High School gymnasium, the performance will feature hundreds of students who are enthusiastic about sharing their musical skills with family and community members alike.
“My 82 fifth-grade band students are curious, eager to learn and want to improve their musicianship,” said Jeanette Jenson, the WMS fifth-grade band instructor.
“We have great instrumentation with the fairly high numbers involved, and they are really enjoying the holiday tunes; they’ll play Mike Hannickel’s ‘Suite of Three Tunes,’ including ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ ‘Oh Come, Little Children’ and ‘Jolly Old St. Boogie Claus,’” she added.
“’Jolly Old St. Boogie Claus’ highlights the low brass, and that is absolutely the entire band’s favorite part.”
Jenson’s WMS band colleague, Mike Andersen, has 100 students in a combined seventh/eighth grade ensemble, which will play his own arrangement of the Trans Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells.”
“My sixth-grade band, with 66 students, is playing a Robert W. Smith arrangement of ‘Drummer’s Christmas Carol,’” said Andersen.
“The kids have made very good progress, considering the full bands meet only once every three days.”
Choir director Cindy Anderson has 99 sixth-graders primed to sing “Bethlehem Lullaby” and “A Holiday Road of Carols.”
“That features the theme song from the ‘Vacation’ movies with the Griswolds but is set to Christmas carols,” said Anderson of the latter piece.
“Come to the Stable,” one of the numbers Anderson’s 95 seventh-graders will deliver, has a “cool bass line,” according to Anderson, and that group will also belt a version of Mariah Carey’s hit “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
“My eighth-grade choir has ‘Mary, Did You Know’ and ‘Peace, Peace,’ which will include the audience joining in at the end on ‘Silent Night,’” related Anderson.
Not only will Monday mark the first middle school performance for the 55 fifth-grade string students but it will also be the inaugural concert for their director, Morgan Rukstales, a WMS music and fifth-grade orchestra teacher who joined District 518 in August.
“I’m really enjoying getting to know my students, colleagues and the entire Worthington community,” said Rukstales, who will lead her musicians in “Cripple Creek,” arranged by Edmund J. Siennicki, and “Christmas Serenade” by Steven J. Campbell.
“I’m so proud of all the work these fifth-graders have done in preparation for this concert.”
Sixth- through eighth-grade string instructor Zac Paulsen has two orchestral ensembles slated to play Monday night.
“There are 65 sixth-graders playing ‘A Caravan for Kings’ and ‘Believe’ from ‘The Polar Express,’” said Paulsen.
“And the 71 combined seventh- and eighth-grade orchestra will perform my arrangement of ‘Away in a Manger’ plus ‘This is Halloween’ from Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’” he added.
At WMS, music students rotate through band, choir and orchestra classes every three days, so the groups have had a mere six to 10 rehearsals since their fall concerts concluded in late October and early November.
“I’m so proud of how far the kids have come in only six rehearsals,” said Paulsen, whose orchestra students last performed publicly on Nov. 11.
“It’s hard to believe we could pull together a concert in only a month when we share kids every three days, but I’m so proud of how well they’ve done with this challenging music.”
Said Jenson, “The band students are really enjoying the holiday tunes, and all the kids are looking forward to sharing it with everyone Monday evening.”
The Worthington Middle School music department’s Festival of Music Holiday Concert is at 7 p.m. Monday in the gymnasium of Worthington High School, 1211 Clary St., Worthington. The concert is free and open to the public.