Vocal and Orchestral Concert honors traditions and transitions

Pizzicato and harmonies, along with members of the SPA community, filled the Huss Center on Saturday night. The Upper School Vocal/Orchestral Spring Concert drew in a full house for a little under two hours of music.

The program began with Honors Sinfonia filing onstage with their instruments to play Waltz No. 2, conducted by senior Will Sedo. The Waltz was violinist Humza Murad’s favorite piece to play. “After practicing for so long, you don’t really feel that much pressure, because there are so many people around you and everyone is working together. The pressure is kind of shared between everybody,” Murad said of the pressure of performing onstage.

For the second piece of the program, Orchestra Director Almut Engelhart led the Honors Sinfonia in Claude Debussy’s infamous Claire De Lune, a favorite of many in the audience and on stage.
“I thought Claire De Lune was the best piece to play,” violist Ingrid Johnson said. For bassist Becca Richman, it was the best to listen to.

The song was followed by Por Una Cabeza, featuring a solo from violinist Kai Sih, and Rustic Holiday, a piece played by the Orchestra Winds. A standout piece of the evening was In the Hall of the Mountain King, which began with eerie and unsettling pizzicato, and evolved into a fast and intense piece involving the entire orchestra.

Throughout the concert, the students and families that filled Huss pointed at programs, took pictures of those on stage, and admired the music. “I have a lot of friends in the concert, and it’s fun finding them. A lot of them said [the concert] is not going to be very good, but honestly, it sounds really good so far,” sophomore Anisa Deo said at intermission.

During intermission, the orchestra chairs were removed and choir risers were rolled out. When the lights dimmed, Summit Singers, all in matching black floor-length dresses, welcomed the audience back with Ad Astra, a song in Latin. They were joined by Academy Chorale sopranos and altos for The Light of a Clear Blue Morning, which had solos from seniors Ellie Murphy and Annika Brelsford, along with junior Maggie Fried and freshman Maddie Pierce.

Community Chorale, a choir of SPA community members, including faculty, parents, and alumni, joined the students for the final songs of the evening and of longtime Choir Director Anne Klus’s 34 years at SPA.

This concert was Klus’s last performance of her career, which made the evening carry bittersweet significance. Klus’s sister, Dr. Elizabeth Mollison Allison, accompanied the choirs for Across the Vast, Eternal Sky, a piece that Klus described as “‘coming full circle’ returning to your beginning, only wiser and with a deepened sense of understanding borne of years of experience,” in her director’s notes.

After practicing for so long, you don’t really feel that much pressure, because there are so many people around you and everyone is working together.”

— Humza Murad

Klus’s position is being taken by Tim Kraack ‘05, Klus’s own student. Klus commissioned him to write the piece called This Is The Small Song I Sing in 2020, which was going to be sung in Carnegie Hall before the pandemic hit. Saturday, the SPA community got to hear the piece for the first time.

The penultimate piece of the evening was Cornerstone, a song that consisted of biblical verses set to music. The choir sang over and over “the stone that the builders rejected became the cornerstone of a whole new world.”

“I usually feel pretty nervous on stage, but I feel better when I start singing,” Cornerstone soloist Millicent Benson said.

The evening concluded with Choose Something Like A Star. After the final notes were sung, bouquets of flowers were brought onstage for Klus, by students, adults, and Klus’s niece. “It was really sad, but I am also leaving this year and so we are leaving at the same time,” vocal soloist Eleanor Smith said.

“It’s cool to know that Mr. Kraack, who we all love, is coming after. It’s a sad moment, but it’s also sweet because we know that there’s so much cool stuff out there in the future,” Richman said of the transition.

While the evening was full of goodbyes, it also promised new beginnings. SPA music students and families crowded Redleaf Commons after the performance to celebrate what was completed and what was to come.