Singin’ In The Snow

A Review Of The Vespers Concert


Photo credit: Zach Joseph

The 7th graders sing a harmonious melody at Vespers.

In times of chaos and confusion, mankind can always count on music to make the bad times better. And here at Parker, we couldn’t agree more.

This year, on December 14, the choirs and bands of the Middle and Upper Schools put on a winter concert called Vespers, in which they share their musical talents to anyone wanting a fun festive celebration before winter break.

Vespers has been going on for at least 70 years.  While it used to consist of all the students in grades 7-12, back when there was only choir available, over time, the number of groups performing has changed based on who does what instrument.  Now we have many different instruments and groups able to be joined and played by willing students.

Each middle school choirs grades 6th-8th, 9th grade New Chorale, 10th-12th grade Special Chorus, and Grape Jam all performed this year, each doing different songs that reflected the different ages and voice qualities, and as well as the season.

The concert kicked off with the Special Chorus and an Orchestra of teachers performing “Kyrie” from the Mozart Requiem. While it was an engaging start to the concert, that was sadly the last time we heard any sort of collaboration of both band and choir, besides the occasional piano accompaniment. But more on that later.

The 6th grade sang “Sound the Trumpet,” a baroque fanfare piece by Vivaldi typically performed by an orchestra, and “Snow Carol,” a German carol used in a variety of social protest and union songs in the late 20th century. Both of these songs had an uplifting feel, and they were a good addition to the repertoire of styles heard throughout the performance.

The 7th grade sang “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho,” a spiritual, and the contemporary “Grownup Christmas Wish.” The first song was nicely fast paced, a quirky addition the more peaceful tone of the night. The second song was much slower, and members of the audience seemed to enjoy it.

The girls of Grape Jam next sang “Winter Song,” an old-fashioned drinking song by Frederic Bullard, and the boys sang “This Little Babe” from “A Ceremony of Carols,” by Benjamin Britten. Halfway through “This Little Babe,” the boys started to do an alternating up-and-down dance, all while singing on, a capella. The movements really added a humorous touch to the concert. And as a welcome addition, the boys and girls together sang “Africa,” by Toto, as shown in the MX two Mondays ago.  

The 8th grade sang “Al Shlosha d’Varim,” a contemporary piece based on a Hebrew maxim (“On three things, not on four, stands the world…On Torah and avodah. There must be one thing more. Acts of kindness everyday”), and “A Thousand Years,” a Christina Perri pop song based on the emotions of the main lovers of the book “Twilight.” It’s always good to incorporate different songs from different religions into Vespers, and the first song sung by the 8th graders did that nicely.

The New Chorale sang an American Folk melody “Bring Me Little Water Silvy” and a madrigal, “Since First I Saw Your Face.” Including the song “Bring Me Little Water Silvy,” the high school choir groups often sang acapella.

Special Chorus came back, next, to sing a rather long song titled “Tres Cantos Nativos.” This was a capella from the beginning, which was meant to sound like a rainforest, to the middle, where they crouched, and while tapping their hands together in a rhythmic way and singing, slowly inched towards the audience. Those in the first row were right under the performers, and they seemed pleasantly surprised at this sudden display of dance.

Surprisingly, the most shocking and spectacular part wasn’t the dancing, or the a capella choral music, or the interesting Star Wars Cantina Band-like dance the boys of Grape Jam did. It was Upper School Music Teacher and Co-Chair of the Music department, Sunnie Hikawa, announcing her retirement at the end of this year. It was a really sentimental moment for everyone, and out of that moment of shock, the students performed the finale–“You Will Be Found,” the finale to the first act of the musical “Dear Evan Hansen.”

“You Will Be Found” is about Evan Hansen’s speech at a person’s funeral, which goes viral due to its sentiment that everyone matters. This was a good song to add, because in addition to being a hit song, it really speaks to teenagers, who all want badly to matter.

This year’s concert was full of surprise and joy, and a fitting tribute to Ms. Hikawa’s esteemed musical career at Parker.