It has been a very busy fall for the talented instrumentalists and vocalists at Arlington High School. The season started early in September with performances by the Jazz Band and Madrigal Singers at the annual Town Day. Participating in this event is challenging but fun since the students have just started school. The young people have only about 1.5 weeks to get the performances together, so they quickly connect with one another. Rehearsals are fast-paced, but Choral Director Mara Walker, talking about the Madrigal Singers, says “...it is always amazing at how easily the music itself unites the group. Also, “. …they have an excitement and energy that enables them to connect. The group always begins to feel more like a family after this performance, which sets us up well for the year and future performances.”
This year the Jazz Band shared numbers that included RVA all Day by No BS Brass Band, Spain by Chick Corea, and I just Can’t Wait written by local musician Dan Teager. The Madrigal Singers performed a diverse set of repertoire including Twa Tanbou, a Creole piece by Haitian-American composer Sydney Guillaume, a Craig Hella Johnson arrangement of the Dolly Parton song Light of a Clear Blue Morning, and the South African greeting song Hlonolofatsa,
among others. The two groups also collaborated on a performance of Dave Brubeck’s jazz standard Take Five.
On Sept 29, AHS was visited by Italian opera singer Maestro Alberto Profeta. Maestro Profeta was on tour in the United States, and he agreed to stop by to lead a masterclass and perform a concert. The masterclass concentrated on breathing and using the diaphragm to improve vocal sound. The evening concert included his quartet of musicians. Together they performed music that ranged from opera, to classical, popular, and jazz. AHS Instrumental Director Sabato D’Agostino reports that “The concert was amazing…” and “received five standing ovations”. The AHS Jazz Band and Honors Orchestra junior bassist Van Teager also performed as special guests.
On October 27, the AHS Concert Choir, Chorale, and Madrigal Singers joined students taking Music Technology (MT) to present a Collaborative Concert. This joint performance presents the choruses and MT students with a way to experience the other outlets for learning and creating music that exist at AHS. Listening and recording choral singers, creating vocal tracks, or composing, and arranging music helps the MT students become more familiar with choral music. In a similar way, the choral students have the opportunity to listen to practice tracks or record and/or sing music created by the MT students. The audience at the Collaborative Concert was treated to numbers that illustrate the skills learned in the two programs, and how they can come together to create new ways of experiencing and enjoying music.
The Honors String Quartet was a wonderful addition to the November performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Playing from the upper balcony, the group added a “modern” touch to Shakespeare’s play with arrangements of popular and rock music. Their numbers included Love On Top, Mr. Brightside, Fireflies, Shake it Off, and Senorita.
On November 9 the AHS Performing Arts Department was again visited by a remarkable Italian artist. Maestro Vincenzo Tempera, a musician, composer, arranger, record producer, and conductor, held a master class that was attended by 75 student vocalists and instrumentalists. Maestro Tempera discussed and demonstrated how he created his famous movie soundtracks. He also took questions from the attendees regarding a career in music, and Mr. D’Agostino reports that the “Students loved him and his presentation.”
That evening the AHS Honors Orchestra and Honors String Quartet joined professional musicians at the inaugural Italian Soul Festival. Mr. D’Agostino and Berklee Professor Sergio Bellotti wanted to bring a mix of classical, Italian, swing, rock, and pop music to the Arlington community. The evening was a mix of performances by the professional artists and the students, with the Honors Orchestra joining Maestro Tempera on stage to present some of his most famous soundtracks. Mr. D’Agostino describes the event as “...a wonderful learning experience…” and “...a phenomenal show.”
The AHS Jazz Band had the opportunity to open the Arlington Jazz Festival Tribute to Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers at Town Hall on November 13. The students presented numbers written by Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Jeff Coffin, and others. They were followed by six professional musicians, two of which were part of the celebrated Jazz Messengers between 1979-1990. The arrangement of Brubeck’s Blue Rondo a la Turk played by the Jazz Band is a very complicated and beautiful arrangement. Mr. D’Agostino says he was “..absolutely blown away…” by the group’s professional and mature sound…”, especially since the piece was very hard and they were playing right before legendary musicians.
Additionally, students and their families were able to come together and enjoy each other’s company at the first AHS Get Together and Open House of the school year. The instrumental, choral, and drama students also had the opportunity to express themselves as soloists or members of a group, and these monthly concerts will continue throughout the school year..
The winter season is shaping up to be full as well.The schedule includes the Jazz Band and Madrigal Singers at the Arlington First Lights event, the annual Winter Concert featuring all the AHS groups, and the Madrigal Singers as guest performers at the Calvary Church’s Christmas Spectacular program. The Honors String Quartet is performing at the Arlington Housing Authority, and another monthly student concert is planned. All this happens in December!
In additional news, it is always wonderful to have Arlington musicians recognized by outside groups. Ms. Walker shares that the past few years have been marked by record numbers of AHS choral students being accepted into auditioned choral festivals. This year 32 students were accepted into the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) New England Senior District Choral Festival and 18 were recommended for All-State auditions. Ten students participated in the MMEA All-State Chorus last year. Five students were recently accepted into the National Association of Music Educators (NAfME) All-Eastern Honors Chorus and will attend the festival in April in Rochester, New York. One student was accepted into the NAfME All-National Mixed Choir and will sing in Washington, DC next November.
AHS instrumentalists are also being recognized. Mr. D’Agostino shares that seven instrumental musicians have been accepted into auditioned festivals this year.