Candlelight Concert a Delight

Ellen Jarvinen, Adviser

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The annual Candlelight Choir Concert was held Dec. 11 in the Doug Longman Performing Arts Center. Highlights of the night included their traditions of Concert Chorale singing “Thank You” as they stood among the crowd, inviting former members of Hi Tones and In Harmony to sing on stage with them for “Christmas in the Northwest” and “I’m Getting Nuttin’ for Christmas,” and Concert Chorale’s finale, a candlelight processional.

Concert Chorale began the night with “Joy on Christmas Morning Carol” as they entered the theater. It was a festive beginning to a holiday concert. Next, they sang “Thank You” while standing among their family and friends in the audience, conveying their appreciation for them. It was an emotional performance for parents and students alike. Next, they sang the Swahili song, “Kuimba Nafsi Yangu,” which featured Kaitlin Seng and Indiana Cowan on drums. It was an energetic number about joy.

One of my favorite songs the large group performed came next: “Count the Stars.” It featured Reagan Panah as the conductor, as well as Thea Campbell, Mia Foster, Hannah Koo, Hannah Smith, and Rachel Young, who signed the song in American Sign Language. Having the signs added an unexpected visual dimension to the song. The chorale closed out their set with “Swingin’ with the Saints.”

Next was the all-female, all-freshmen Women’s Choir, who seemed nervous and excited for their first performance in front of a large crowd. They opened with the holiday classic, “My Favorite Things,” from “The Sound of Music.” While their singing was excellent, they seemed a little stiff, no doubt a hallmark of nerves. “Bridge over Troubled Water” came next, which was beautiful. It was a soft, slow song featuring solos from Sage Cowan and Taylor Brown. Each soloist brought something unique to the piece; Cowan’s voice was clear, on pitch and lilting, and Brown’s was moody and sultry.

The group really opened up with “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” as the movements involved in the choreography allowed them to relax. It looked like they were having fun, and it carried over into their last two numbers, “Ring Silver Bells” and “We Need a Little Christmas.”

The highlight of the concert for me was the audition groups, Mix It Up, Hi Tones and In Harmony. The groups’ experience and joy for singing shined through in their performance. They looked like they were having so much fun. My cheeks actually hurt from smiling so much!

Mix It Up’s “Blue Moon” was a slow, sweet change of pace, and the group harmonized beautifully (as always). You can tell right from the start that they spend a lot of time singing together. Though I loved the energy of the pieces that came next, I liked this song best. Next came the peppy song, “Pass Me the Jazz,” with bits of scat singing. I really enjoyed the boys’ background part, which added a cool vibe and possibly humor. They closed out their set with an energetic “Swing into Christmas Medley.” I loved the choreography, all student created, with this number.

The In Harmony boys got off to a great start with “Holly Jolly” but really turned on the charm with “Nuttin’ for Christmas.” They invited former members in the audience to join them, and while only one person did, he brought along a life-size cardboard cutout of another member. Using the cutout added hilarity to an already fun number, and they had the audience laughing. It also featured lively solos from Nick Larsen, Chris Benis, Dylan Hepworth, Matthew Bentsen, John Adams, and Oliver Dyrhsen.

Hi Tones followed suit when they invited four former members in the audience to join them for “Christmas in the Northwest.” The song featured solos from Lauren Campbell, Chloe Lang, Shona Carter, Emily Andresen, Rachel Young, Reagan Panah, and Cyan Fuehr. Honestly, the song has never been a favorite of mine, but the soloists were wonderful, especially Carter and Panah, and I liked how they slowly stepped back from the mic as their solos ended and the other singers chimed in. It was a nice technique. Their second song was “Santa Tell Me” with soloists Cameron Zielinski, Cora Ericakson and Mia Foster.

The two audition groups combined for the next number, “A Bit of Holiday Cheer.” The chemistry of the singers was a testament to their many hours of singing together, and the choreography made the song fun to watch as well as listen to. I loved how each dancing pair had their own moves and poses toward the end of the song. They were creative and entertaining.

Next up was Crystal Voices, the Issaquah Middle School Choir. They sat in from of me during the other performances, and it was clear that they were riveted on the older singers and looking forward to their high school music careers. Their first piece, “Rise Up in Festive Song,” was polished. You could definitely sense the youth in their voices, as they don’t yet have the strength of their elders, but they were on pitch and a delight to listen to. Their second song featured four talents, Elsie Whelan, Alexis Betancourt, Jenya Rao, and Aresa Berry. All four have a promising vocal career shortly ahead of them, but I especially enjoyed Whelan’s clear, well-pitched voice. The round they sang, “Christmas Festival,” was complex and challenging, an impressive piece for four brave souls.

The finale of the concert was the return of Concert Chorale, with the lights dimming and eventually going out to add to the anticipation. Though they sang three songs, they all merged into one for me: “I Heard the Bells” with an Emily Andresen solo, “The Chanukah Song,” and “Jingle Bells” featuring Kaitlin Seng on sleigh bells. I was mesmerized by their slow march through the audience in a completely dark theater, carrying candles to light their way. To put it simply, it was beautiful.

The performances were enhanced by the accompanists Olivia Yao, Daniel Han and Charlotte Dennie. In addition, the technical team of Abi McKee, Alina Lowenherz and Jailen Patel added special touches with lighting and mics.