The Choral Department theme for the year is Our Own Song. Working in class towards a successful performance teaches the choristers discipline, teamwork, focus, and concentration. The satisfaction of singing or playing well in front of an audience makes this a valuable experience for all of the students. When they perform successfully in concert, they learn genuine pride and self-esteem. Research shows time and again that students have only to gain from involvement in the arts. A well-organized sustained education in music gives the children intellectual and creative skills that last a lifetime.
Our concert tonight begins with the processional, Street Song, the anthem of the Orff Ensemble. It is an original song based on a 15th century lute piece perhaps played in the streets of Salzburg or Vienna. Any student in the Orff Ensemble since 1981 has learned this beautiful song. Tonight’s version includes four solo improvisations by selected members of the ensemble as the choir processes to the risers. Students take turns improvising during this song with different soloists for each concert.
All 96 singers of the Stewart Choir and Orff Ensemble sing Now for the Song of the Singing School. This interesting canon lets you know what the students have been studying so far this year. Almost everything is mentioned in the song so listen carefully!
The 7th grade choir sings the traditional spiritual Gospel Train in three-part harmony. This is quite an accomplishment for this beginning choir and they do it well! Alexander’s Ragtime Band is one of the very first pop songs ever written. Irving Berlin is one of America’s greatest musicians. Hey Ho Nobody’s Home is an English Folk Song often sung as a part of the holiday tradition of singing carols. It is also in three-part harmony.
The 7th Grade Orff Ensemble shows the beautiful tone colors of the instruments in Toy Rondo from the original volumes of the Orff-Schulwerk. This melody was included in that text as a model for melodic improvisation and the development of orchestration. A 7th grade class several years ago helped to arrange the melody by adding the interesting accompaniment patterns. This year’s students added the “toys.” Walkin’ the Buzz is a rollicking township jive from Australia. The Hey Hey Jam, an original composition from Mr. Holl’s book Wood Songs, is played loud and fast in the Zimbabwean marimba style.
Wade in the Water sung by the 8th grade choir is a traditional spiritual from the tradition of the Underground Railroad. The students have learned about some of the songs that helped gain the freedom of the slaves in the South before and during the Civil War. The hit movie O Brother, Where art Thou provides the inspiration for the song Down to the River to Pray. The song carries a wonderful message of hope and perseverance for the middle school choristers. It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing is a fun song that helps the choristers express their love for music and singing! Just exactly what is it that makes the “tune so sweet?”
It wouldn’t be a Stewart Middle School concert without a couple of Walt Hampton's great tunes. The 8th grade Orff Ensemble plays two of our favorites from his books Hot Marimba and Marimba Mojo, RIP and Tsokachata or as the kids call it, “Funky Monkey.” The ensemble finishes up with another of Mr. Holl’s pieces from Wood Songs, Pumpkins. The inspiration for this mysterious sounding tune was the changing of the seasons from summer to fall woven into the Latin rhythm of the Guaguancó.
The Stewart Honors Choir is a new addition to the Fall Concert. This group has 6th, 7th, and 8th grade singers and meets after school once a week for 90 minutes. They start with the lovely Polish folk song Dowidzenia. Cedar Swamp is a fun arrangement of a traditional Appalachian Folk Song. It’s very complicated with many harmonies and melodies mixing together with a wild ending! The Little Beggarman is a traditional Irish folk song that extols the simplicity of the life of a gypsy.
The concert this evening closes with My Own Song, a beautiful, energetic piece sung by the combined choirs that expresses the joy of singing and music, followed by the choir’s favorite gospel tune; Let the Rain of Your Presence. The choristers and I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed yourselves this evening and that you truly appreciate the value of experiences like this in the lives of the children. Thanks for coming!
I want to sing my own song; I want to sing in my own rhythm,
I’ve got a tune inside my soul that keeps me goin’ strong!
I don’t know where it comes from, this magical music deep inside me,
But I know if I keep on singing it, I can’t go wrong!
Brent M. Holl, Director
Stewart Choir and Orff Ensemble