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High School Christmas Concerts

andreaAndrea Pannier enjoyed piano and guitar lessons when she was in grade school, and decided to join the band while attending Plymouth High under the direction of band director, Jason Sebranek. She then went on to UW-Oshkosh to pursue her degree in music education under the direction of Dr. Rob McWilliams. Upon graduating from Oshkosh, she took the job at St. Mary’s Springs Academy as the High School Music Director.

“When I start a new concert series,” Andrea said “I first spend time listening to and looking through new release pieces. I want to make sure I have a combination of old and new. I also look at past programs that I’ve done, and select some pieces that have worked well in the past based on the voices I have available. Being at a Catholic School, it’s great to be able to choose songs varying from Sacred text, to secular, to contemporary.”

Interest, and numbers are up again this school year.

“The Concert Choir is the largest it has been at SMSA since I have started in 2008,” Andrea said. “The choir has expanded to allow us to offer two sections of choir during the school day. We also have the most students to ever have auditioned for Vocal Jazz this year, which allows me to have two groups, both a Mixed Vocal Jazz ensemble and a Girls Vocal Jazz Ensemble.”

You can expect another diverse program this year.

“A new release piece we are performing this year is called, White Winter Hymnal,” Andrea said “it was originally done by the contemporary band, The Fleet Foxes, but it was made famous by the a cappella group, Pentatonix. It has a lot of voice layering and some percussion effects which is why the students are most excited about this piece. We are also closing our concert this year with Auld Lang Syne, which will feature 119 voices, including Vocal Ensembles, Concert Choir 1 & 2, both Vocal Jazz Ensembles and accompaniment by the Concert Band.”

SMSA High School Christmas Concert
Wednesday, December 16th 7:00pm at Sacred Heart Church, Fond du Lac.

Fond du Lac High School’s “Night of Silence”
“Night of Silence started back in 2003,” Fondy High Choral Director Cory Schneider said “with one performance, featuring Concert Choir, Concert Treble Choir and the Cardinal Singers.  After a couple of years, my colleague James Estes, had a family wedding to attend, so we invited the band to join us.  For several years, just Concert Choir, Cardinal Singers and Symphonic Winds & Percussion performed.  Then we decided to have this concert feature all of the upper level choirs, band and orchestra.  Now, we have Concert Choir, Concert Treble Choir, Symphonic Winds and Percussion, and Symphonic Orchestra.  Carols in the Round feature many smaller ensembles and vocal jazz and madrigals perform prior to the concert in the commons.” 

With all of these groups participating, it soon became clear they needed to expand the concert to offer it over two nights.

cory“Then, several years ago,” Cory said “we needed to go to three nights!  Night of Silence is a concert unlike any other in the area.  The goal is to have a concert in the round with no applause.  We try to not have any one ensemble perform two songs in a row.  There will be a group on stage, then another in the balcony, then yet another in the middle of the audience.  You never know where or who will be performing the next song.  When we had the first concert many years ago, the audience wanted to clap after each song and were offended that we wouldn’t allow them to do so.”

One of Schneider’s goals is to provide a wide variety of music that will challenge his students. 

“Usually I just have to worry about what the choirs are singing,” Cory said “however, in this setting, the directors all need to work together so we don’t duplicate the same songs.  It takes a lot of planning, revision, and then some more planning.  The music this year will feature a wide variety of selections including the finale “A Christmas Festival” by Leroy Anderson.  There are some choral standards such as Sweenlick’s “Hodie,” and some newer songs from the hit a cappella group Pentatonix.  A really neat feature of this concert is that a student has arranged a couple of the carols for the Carols in the Round part of the concert.”

The music in itself has many challenges, however, the unique part of this concert is the logistics and getting the performers from one place to another without any applause.

“When one group is performing,” Cory said “the other performers are secretly moving to their next place.  Another challenge is that some of the performers are in two ensembles (band and choir for example).  It makes it difficult to have one student sing in the balcony, then have to play the next song from stage.  We spend four days in the Performing Arts Center to walk through the logistics.  It can be tricky to get them all down, while saving time to polish the music.

Schneider doesn’t do this alone.   

“I am blessed to have Allison Zeitler on staff with me,” Cory said “she’s great, and the kids love her, and I am thrilled to be able to work with her every day.  It is definitely a team effort as the program is too big for any one person.  We also have Nancy Schultz as our part time accompanist who helps out with a variety of administrative tasks.  And our parent organization is amazing, they always step up whenever we need help.”  

Year after year, Schneider continues to develop a “choral camaraderie.”

“For many of the choir students,” Cory said “the choir room is their second home.  I am continually amazed at the number of hours that these students dedicate to our choral program and musical.  Especially in the fall, many students are at school by 7 am and don’t leave until after their last rehearsal at 6 pm, sometimes later.  Many weekends are spent at choreography, performances or choir retreat.  When you spend this much time together, a family atmosphere develops.  These are some of the greatest kids in the school, and are some of the hardest working kids you’ll find.  I wouldn’t trade these kids for anyone!”

Night of Silence
Friday & Saturday, December 11 & 12 – 7:30 pm
Sunday, December 13 – 2:00 pm
Fond du Lac High School Performing Arts Center
Tickets $7 (www.hometowntickets.com  or FHS Box Office in PAC Lobby)

North Fondy Winter Choral Celebration
“The holiday’s mean a lot to me,” Anthony Rasmussen, Vocal Music Director at Horace Mann High said, “as my immediate and extended family are all in the state and I have great memories of the traditions of celebrating Christmas with my family at my grandmother’s house after attending the Christmas Eve church service.”

anthonyAnthony is a graduate of Grafton High School, who then went on to graduate UW-La Crosse with honors, receiving his Bachelor of Science in Music Education in 2013.

“I have been vocal director here at the high school since graduating,” Anthony said “and at Bessie Allen Middle School teaching 6-12 vocal music and 6th grade general music.”

Coming off a successful fall musical stage production, Anthony has his singers readied for Christmas.

“The audience should expect a variety and differences in song styles and choices,” Anthony said “I strive to always pick across the catalog of music that incorporates different sounds and harmonies.  I trust everyone will enjoy our evening concert full from our 52 singers, eleven of which are men. I mention that because when I began in 2013, we had only 39 total voices with a mere four men.  The growth is always great to see and hear.”

Horace Mann High School Winter Choral Concert
Wednesday, December 9th in the Performing Arts Center 
6:30 pm Middle School – 7:30 pm High School
Free admission, with free will offering during both performances.

WLA’s Unique Christmas Concert
It isn’t every school’s Christmas concert, or any concert for that matter, that all enrollee’s are expected to sing.

dale“One of the unique aspects of WLA’s Christmas Concerts,” Dale Witte, WLA Choral Director said “is that the entire student body sings.  There aren’t many schools that can claim that! The student body rehearses for 30 minutes each day after Thanksgiving leading up to the concert.  Every class time is shortened by 4 minutes to make a 28 minute rehearsal time right before lunch. Every musical group performs for each concert: Concert Band, Concert Choir, Traveling Choir, Academy Kids, and the entire student body.”

Witte’s interest in music began at home with his parents: they both played piano.

“My mom would play piano in the house after putting my brother and I to bed,” Dale said.  “My dad studied Chopin waltzes in college, and was my inspiration to tackle harder piano music. My interest in choral music?  As a little boy I wanted to be an orchestra conductor.  I would put my father’s Arthur Fiedler Boston Pops albums on the record player and conduct the cows across the street through the living room window.  I was a singer in high school and college, and one of my first teaching positions included being a junior and senior choir director of a Lutheran church in Tomah, Wisconsin.  When I was called to the Academy in 1993, I was asked to teach four sections of Freshman World History, and one section of choir.  I wanted to direct the choir so badly that I accepted the call to teach, even though history was not a love, nor strong suit of mine.”

The tradition of all the students at WLA singing during the concert didn’t start with Witte.

“Many of the current student body’s parents and grandparents who had gone to WLA remember fondly singing for the Christmas Concert when they were students,” Dale said.  “It’s the premiere musical event at the Academy each year!  Some of the pieces the Traveling Choir will be singing are Betelehemu (Wendall Wahlum), O Magnum Mysterium (Morten Lauridsen), and a piece composed by current student teacher Zachary Unke, In a Manger.  The Concert Choir will be singing Hurry, Shepherds, Run and Still is the Night. There are a number of traditional songs which the student body always sings: O Holy Night (Adolphe Adam), Carol of the Child (David Haas), Hallelujah Chorus (George F. Handel), and Freedom is Coming (trad. South African Freedom Song).  The rest of the concert is a sacred retelling of the Biblical Christmas Story in song: the fact that the baby Jesus is the Savior of the world.”

The WLA Christmas Concert
Monday, Dec. 21 at 7 PM and Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 1 PM.
 
The concert is held in the WLA gymnasium at 475 E. Merrill Ave., Fond du Lac. 

For more information and the concert live stream go to www.wlavikings.org.

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