“Home for the Holidays:” Evergreen Masterfully Spreads the Holiday Spirit

Rebekah Rahman, Staff Writer

On Dec. 14 in the Longman Performing Arts Center, a crowded bustle of parents, students, and teachers attended Evergreen Philharmonic’s  annual “Home for the Holidays” performance. With complementary jingle bells in hand, audience members sang along to Christmas classics with the musical talents of  Evergreen Philharmonic, Skyline Vocal Jazz, and senior cellist Stephen Leou from Bellevue High School.

The concert opened with “Sleigh Ride,” which proved to set the mood for the rest of the performance with it’s festive, yet classy tone. The first sing-along was “Angel Medley” which included “Angels We’ve Heard On High” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Between the orchestra and Vocal Jazz’s equally angelic singing, the medley left the audience in high spirits. Afterwards, Vocal Jazz showed off both their acapella skills and charisma when they took center stage with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and their refreshing and jazzy take on “Jingle Bells.”

Despite not being a traditional holiday piece, “Hungarian Rhapsody” was the highlight of the night for many, with Orchestra Director Leah Weitzsacker saying it was her “favorite piece of the entire night.” More importantly, guest soloist and local talent Stephen Leou led the song. A feeling of awe was shared amongst the momentarily silenced audience whenever Leou played throughout the somber piece.

The rest of the concert seemed to capture the festive and merry spirit quite well. Vocal Jazz accompanied the orchestra once again with “Christmas Night Medley” which included “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “Silent Night.” Like many of the other sing-alongs that night, the lyrics were displayed on screen, with “Silent Night”in particular being more interactive with the audience. The young children in attendance sang the initial verse with the female members of Vocal Jazz and the song rounded off with the audience as a whole singing along joyously. Vocal Jazz then went up into the balcony on both sides of the theatre to sing “Somewhere In My Memory” from “Home Alone.” This gave a magical effect, almost ethereal in combination with Evergreen’s majestic instrumentals. Continuing the holiday soundtrack favorites, the audience rang their jingle bells happily to the “Frosty Red Santa” medley, featuring a fun mix of “Frosty The Snowman,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

In celebration of the iconic animated movie “Frozen,” several orchestra members appeared on stage dressed up as Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and Sven. There is something incredibly pleasing about seeing your favorite characters play their own songs live, especially considering that Evergreen played so skillfully that their performance sounded straight off the original soundtrack itself. Next, the already hyped crowd sang along to the “Christmas Carol Medley” with “Joy to the World” and “Come All Ye Faithful,” making you feel as if you just opened the door on Christmas Eve to a group of professional carolers.

The performance began to reach its end with “Danse Des Mirlitons” from “The Nutcracker.” It included an impressive flute feature, which meshed beautifully with the rest of the orchestra. The concert came to an all too soon close with the “It’s Christmas Melody,” a final sing-along with Vocal Jazz that included “We Need a Little Christmas” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” As if the two groups’s musical talents were not  satisfying enough, snow fell from the top of the stage as the crowd sang its last notes in joyful unison.

After the show, Weitsacker commented that she felt “wonderful,” and, much to my surprise, revealed that Evergreen only had one full dress rehearsal to play their pieces together with Skyline Vocal Jazz and Stephen Leou. But, junior Julia Kharchenko made this seem as if it was all a breeze by saying “It’s our chillest concert and the best to practice for.” Sophomore Victoria Lu felt “relieved by how successful the it was” and just like everyone else that night, she remembers completely “feeling the holiday spirit.”