Middle & Upper School Winter Concert

January 6, 2023

The excitement in the audience of Brick Church was palpable: the highly anticipated Middle and Upper School Winter Concert had arrived. This year also marked the return of our full Middle School Chorus, featuring Classes VI through VIII and our Class V Chorus featuring every member of the Class of 2030.

Upper School Chorus began the evening with a dreamy rendition of “Once Upon a December” from the musical Anatasia followed by Class V Chorus singing “Welcome to Winter” written by Lower School Music Teacher Mary Beth Alexander and “I Lift my Voice” by Andrea Ramsey with additional lyrics by Class V. In the second song, the entire audience was encouraged to sing along with the chorus—and sing along they did! Throughout the entirety of Brick Church students, family members, and professional community members sang in unison: “When they try to divide us, they will only unite us! I lift my voice!”

This concert also marked the beginning of what Music Department Chair and Choral Programs Director Michael Goede hopes will become a regular occurrence at Nightingale concerts. In between musical numbers as choral groups situated themselves on the risers, Mr. Goede asked that audience members turn and talk with one another, engaging with a prompt featuring a question designed to help fellow listeners get to know each other. Some of these included: Share how you landed in the Nightingale community, Share your favorite winter/holiday memory or tradition, and Share your favorite moment(s) from the evening.

“The idea of ‘turn and talk’ moments initially stemmed from a desire to invite the audience to engage with the entire concert experience rather than being a traditional, passive recipient. Often, music concerts carry certain expectations for audience etiquette that, truthfully, are rooted in a western approach to music,” Mr. Goede shared.

“Choral concerts feel very different in other parts of the world. For example, when Chamber Chorus toured South Africa 2018, we performed for audiences of what we called 'active' listeners: their bodies moved, their faces were animated, and their spirits were almost tangible. I think it is important that our Nightingale community recognizes ways we can center other voices and traditions including what we ask of our audience members. Creating informal moments was one way to experiment with this idea. The feedback from people was overwhelmingly positive, and I do hope we can continue this type of new tradition at future performances.”

He continued, “Equally as important, was recognizing that our community has been separated for so long because of the pandemic. Our normal moments of connection were replaced by screens. We saw the concert as an opportunity to build community with each other, to restore and strengthen relationships, and to be reminded of what makes Nightingale so special,” Mr. Goede noted.

Middle School Chorus was up next and had the audience dancing in their seats with the classic holiday tune “Jingle Bell Rock,” Upper School Chorus returned with “Lullaby” by Daniel Elder and “Be the Change” by Colin Britt and Marc Kaplan (with more audience participation!), and Baseless Accusations sang the nostalgic winter tune “Christmas Time is Here” written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Following, Upper School Chamber Chorus took their place center stage and serenaded the audience in German with “Laughing and Shouting for Joy (Duet from Cantata No. 15).” Before they began their next song, Mr. Goede explained that the following two songs were selected as an intentional pair and asked that all applause be held until the close of the second song. A stillness came over Brick Church as the soaring voices of Chamber Chorus lifted in unison to sing “The Song I Came to Sing” with words by Rabindranath Tagore and music by Craig Hella Johnson. After a slightest pause, they began to sing “Flight” by Craig Carnelia whose poignant lyrics include:

Let me run thru a field in the night,
Let me lift from the ground ‘til my soul is in flight.
Let me sway like the shade of a tree,
Let me swirl like a cloud in a storm on the sea.

Wish me on my way thru the dawning day.
I wanna flow, wanna rise, wanna spill,
wanna grow in a grove on the side of a hill,
wanna shift like a wave rollin’ on,
wanna drift from the path I’ve been traveling upon,
before I am gone.

Mr. Goede reflected, “I knew in September that ‘The Song I Came to Sing’ and ‘Flight’ could make for a stunning and compelling moment in the concert. Both texts explore feelings of yearning for something that feels just out of reach. When choosing repertoire, I want to find music that teaches specific musical concepts while also connecting with the singers. They have to feel the emotions of the song, both in the music itself and also the text. The students immediately loved ‘Flight’ and also found the sound of ‘The Song I Came to Sing’ to be haunting with the cello serving as a third voice. I remember explaining the concept of pairing the two songs without pausing in between, and when the students heard both recordings uninterrupted to mimic what it would feel like in the concert, their faces lit up. They understood and believed in the concept. This was a moment where we could hold the audience for an extended period and just carry them to a different space.”

Finally, all singers in Classes V–XII rose to sing “Adiemus” by Karl Jenkins. In these moments, it is undeniable how the power of voices coming together as one has the ability to transform a space. With every note, joy and hope filled the air, the rhythm of the music powering the song forward all the way through to the very end. Cheering and applause erupted, marking the end of another beautiful Middle and Upper School Winter Concert.