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Kennedy Catholic Musicians Blend Styles in a Christmas Concert Master Class

Everyone in the Kennedy Catholic community needed a little Christmas, and the combined forces of Kennedy’s Chorus, String Ensemble and Concert Band delivered it last night in spades.

An aerial view of the concert band

An aerial view of the concert band

…better make that “diamonds,” as glittering stage sculptures crafted by the junior class’s Advanced Visual Arts Collaborative Project filled the stage of the auditorium and provided a perfect setting for the incandescent performances that followed.

The chorus, under the direction of Kennedy Arts Department Chair Mrs. Ines Wilhelm-Boston, and accompanied by Mrs. Lorraine Bernitt, performed first, and would return throughout the evening. Their first performance, “These Alone Are Enough,” based on a prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola, featured a vocal solo by Rosario Grasso and instrumental solo by percussionist Katelyn Wegener.

Mrs. Boston directs the Chorus

In Charge: Kennedy Catholic Arts Department Chair Mrs. Boston directs the Chorus

The choristers next swung into high gear with the beloved Harry Simeone classic, “The Little Drummer Boy,” featuring Brendan Earl pa-rum-pa-pum-pumming on the snare drum. Lexi Vespucci followed with a powerful solo performance of “O Holy Night.”

Kennedy Catholic Chorus Christmas Concert

Need A Little Christmas, right this very minute? The Kennedy Catholic Chorus are the people to see…

Taking the audience from the traditional to about twenty minutes into the future, pianist Tingya Zhang gave a jaw-dropping, virtuoso instrumental performance of “Senbonzakura” (“Thousand Cherry Blossoms”). The song is from the voice synthesizer software “Vocaloid,” which crowd-sources new musical compositions that are often later performed in arenas “live” by holographic singers. If Ms. Zhang is not filling arenas of her own in 10-15 years, we’ll be very surprised.

pianist Tingya Zhang

The staggeringly talented pianist Tingya Zhang performs “Senbonzakura”

Every Christmas concert should introduce listeners to a less well-known carol that sends them home to flip through old CD collections to see if they own it, and Kennedy’s 2016 concert delivered with “Mary, Did You Know?” The ringing and heart-felt solo vocal performance by Ava Gallo turned a “C” tier carol into a top-of-the-playlist nuevo classic for everyone in the audience.

Before yielding the stage to the String Ensemble, the Kennedy choristers delivered a rousing “Panis Angelicus,” which included solos by Kiely Beltran and Megan Collina. The chorus would return later to perform Mame’s “We Need a Little Christmas,” which pretty much signaled the start of the season for everyone in attendance.

Under the baton of Mr. Frederick Ostrofsky, the 15-member String Ensemble opened with Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 5,” which they followed with a pin-perfect performance of Mozart’s “Flute Quartet in D.”

The Brass Section in the Kennedy Catholic Concert Band

The Brass Section in the Kennedy Catholic Concert Band

The Kennedy Concert Band, which shares members with the String Ensemble, took the stage next, under the leadership of Mrs. Martha Belardo. Their raucous renditions of Yuletide perennials “Sleigh Ride” and “Christmas Fantasy” blew through the auditorium like a bracing blast of arctic air.

The String Ensemble returned to take listeners from the North Pole to the waters off Barbados with their instantly-recognizable medley of music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtracks, featuring percussionist Christian Pitaccio.

The Kennedy Catholic String Ensemble Performs at the 2016 Christmas Concert

The Kennedy Catholic String Ensemble Performs at the 2016 Christmas Concert

It’s always tough for any artist to follow a good rendition of “Carol of the Bells,” with its famously reverberating and ominous 4-note motif. It’s a special challenge when that rendition is as electrically charged as the one rendered by the Kennedy Concert Band this evening. But follow it the String Ensemble did, with a beautiful “String a Song of Christmas.”

The Kennedy Catholic Concert Band

“Carol of the Bells” was another Triumph for the Kennedy Catholic Concert Band

If you’re planning a concert like this, one that brings together an entire community of students, family, educators and friends there is really only one way to end it (if it really must end…). Of course, that’s with a sing-a-long of “White Christmas.” Sure, not everyone in the audience may have been on key (or even anywhere near the same keyhole), but the enthusiasm — and the rare delight of hearing Kennedy Chorus, String Ensemble, and Concert Band all play together — more than compensated for your cousin’s and grandmother’s imperfect pitch problems.

Fr. Vaillancourt and the Chorus at the 2016 Kennedy Catholic Christmas Concert

Fr. Vaillancourt provided the narration for “The Christmas Tree,” a short film which closed the 2016 Christmas Concert

But although we had reached the end of the scheduled program, we weren’t done quite yet. Instead, the audience was treated to the premiere of “The Christmas Tree,” a claymation short video produced in a collaboration between Kennedy Catholic’s Fine Arts Studio and Media Lab students. Looking like an episode of “Davey & Goliath” but hitting much, much closer to home, the movie was a tale of loss and redemption – and it was all true. It told of the death of the father of Kennedy Principal Fr. Vaillancourt while still a high school student, and how the young Vaillancourt used Faith and Tradition to return Joy and Light to what should have been his family’s darkest Christmas. The short was met with thunderous applause.

It was another fabulous night for the Arts in Northern Westchester, and an unforgettable one for the Kennedy community.

To see more of our Christmas Concert images, visit our Gallery of Images.