By Will Holub-Moorman
After East Treble Ensemble finished singing William Boyce’s fleeting but powerful “Alleluia,” Choral Department Director Désirée Davis-Omburo broke a tense silence.
“That was a short one,” Davis-Omburo noted.
In fact, that statement applied to the East Choral Department’s Fall Concert as a whole. East’s chorus concerts usually run well past two hours in length. This one lasted barely more than an hour. Davis-Omburo explained that the decision to omit an intermission coupled with the lack of a dance program accounted for this difference.
However, East’s choral groups stuffed many highlights into that hour.
Aside from “Alleluia,” Treble Ensemble sang an interesting arrangement of the English folk tune “Scarborough Fair,” popularized by Simon and Garfunkel. Junior Naula Ndugga provided pitch-perfect lead vocals, and the ensemble broke into a stylistically ambitious a cappella verse midway through the song.
Treble Ensemble’s male counterparts, East Men, made a different sort of stylistic choice, performing The Little Mermaid’s “Kiss the Girl” while wearing straw skirts and garlands. Later in the show, East Men returned to perform the intense “Dúlamán”, a rapid chant based on Irish text. Senior Jamie Mainwaring, a soloist in the performance, said “Dúlamán” was a linguistic challenge.
“It was rough during the learning stages. The pronunciations of Gaelic are murder— that language is completely psychotic,” Mainwaring said. “But we watched and listened to the original group, Anuna, perform the song on YouTube, and listened to a pronunciation guide numerous times. Once we learned the words, we had fun with it. We were definitely proud of how it came out on the concert.”
East Concert Choir sang an excellent version of “Dreams of Thee,” inspired by a Percy Shelley poem. The performance was keyed by senior soloist Ariana Mariakakis, who kicked off the song with a long vocal. Mariakakis described her emotions during the song.
“I was pretty nervous when singing the solo, but then I reminded myself how much the solo meant to me. Singing on stage has a different atmosphere than singing in your car or in class. It’s as if something comes over you and an entertainer side comes out,” Mariakakis said.
The Chiefs of Staff broke into a jungle-themed beatbox midway through senior Henry Branson’s arrangement of “Trashin’ the Camp” from Tarzan. For their second song, junior soloist Jordan Lee, wearing a red silk shirt, delivered a soulful rendition of Boyz II Men’s “In the Still of the Night.”
The Alley Cats also performed a pair of songs. The first, VV Brown’s “Shark in the Water,” featured an outstanding solo performance from junior Eve Devonport. Their second offering was a re-hash of the old standby “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” from The Aristocats. Although the song was well-performed, it was disappointing that the Alley Cats reprised a selection that most of the audience had heard previously.
To close the show, East Ensemble sang pieces from very different musical genres. The best of these was György Orbán’s “Daemon Irrepit Callidus.” Senior East Ensemble member Hannah Weaver said that the piece challenged the ensemble.
“It was an intense performance that had to be very rhythmically tight. One of the most difficult aspects of “Daemon” was memorizing the Latin text,” Weaver said.
To end the show, East Ensemble ambitiously selected A.R. Rahman’s “Jai Ho!” from Best Picture-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire.” Although replicating Rahman’s sheer aural impact would have been difficult, East Ensemble performed the adaptation impressively, handling the multiple simultaneous rhythms and melodies with ease. Senior Stephanie Bui, an East Ensemble member, said the piece pushed the group.
“Every concert needs a challenging piece, and “Jai Ho!” was it for us. Because of the range of the notes and pronunciation, it took a while to learn,” Bui said.
Weaver also noted that East Ensemble’s performance of the piece presented new obstacles.
“We had only practiced “Jai Ho!” with the drummer one or two times before the actual performance,” Weaver said. “So it was challenging to hear and tune with that added distraction. It was also a lengthy piece, so it pushed our vocal stamina.”