The Millburn High School auditorium was the place to be on Wednesday to watch the Millburn choral and orchestral ensembles present their Winter Concert. The groups have been practicing since the first week of school.
The concert, under the direction of orchestra director Karen Conrad and choral director Rodrigo Vega, opened with the Cantica Nova, Millburn's 53-strong freshman chorus, the biggest it's been in recent history.
The ensemble, which rehearses daily during fourth period, began with the Ghanaian rhythmic folk piece "Pete Pete!," which implemented African folk techniques of call-and-response. Scarlett Bergam, Daniel Stern, and Darren Ting were featured percussionists, while Ellim Kim was featured on piano.
The Cantica Nova also sang the solemn ballad "Misty," a standard that featured jazz harmonies. "If Music be the Food of Love," an Andrew Miller tripartite piece with dissonant phrasing and modality shifts with beautiful lyrics painting a profound message followed, featuring Christine Tang on violin and Celina Zou on piano.
Cantica Nova closed with and Eastern European minor rondo piece called, "Hey, for the Dancing!"
Next was the Millburn Chorale, a select group of 23 sophomore, junior and senior singers who spend 6:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays rehearsing with Vega.
The chorale presented a wide range of pieces, opening with Debussy's challenging "Yver, vous n'estes qu'un villain" (translated: "Winter, you are nothing but a villain"), the third of his "Trois Chansons." It’s quick homophonies beautifully emphasizes the seasonal imagery.
The chorale continued with Ralph Vaughan Williams' arrangement of "The Turtle Dove," the classical English folk melody, featuring soloists senior Max Sauberman and junior Hannah Hayden.
"Over the Rainbow" followed, a choral arrangement the unforgettable Americana staple from "The Wizard of Oz." Sophomore pianist Louis Danowksy provided accompaniment. Next was contemporary American composer Eric Whitacre's piece, "A Boy and a Girl," filled with rich harmonic textures.
Chorale finished with "Quick! We have but a second!," a jovial final hurrah to indulgence in the splendors of love.
The first act closed with the Chamber Strings, a group of select 10th through 12th grade string musicians who rehearse weekly with Conrad on Wednesday evenings. They performed Corelli's "Concerto Grosso in g minor, Op. 6, No. 8," featuring seniors Hannah Park (violin), Sunny Chang (cello), and freshman Sarah Park (violin).
Chamber Strings also performed a Whitacre piece, "October."
The Millburn High School Symphony Orchestra followed the intermission. The orchestra consists of string musicians and select winds and brass of 9th through 12th grade that rehearse daily with Conrad. They began with Beethoven's "Egmont Overture, Op. 84," and followed with two movements of Bizet's, "L'Arlesienne Suite, No. 2."
The orchestra closed with senior cellist Brannon Cho performing Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20.”
The Miller Chorus was next and featured a large ensemble of 10th- through 12th-grade singers, who rehearse daily with Vega. They began with "Tres Cantos Nativos dos Indios Krao," opening with jungle-rainforest noises and animal sounds.
Next was Stroope's "Omnia Sol," a farewell song to one's love featuring bilingual polyphonic melodies of English and Latin. Junior pianist Jeremy Au was featured. In Ticheli's "Earth Song", the choir contemplates the stillness of the Earth.
Miller Chorus finished their set with the African-American spiritual, "Great Day," featuring syncopation and call-and-response figures. The song featured senior soprano Victoria Nachevnik and junior tenor Sam Gersho.
To close the program, the Miller Chorus joined forces with the Symphonic Orchestra and Cantica Nova to perform Joseph Martin's "The Awakening."
The next music department events include the Accelerated Music Recital on Jan. 15 and the band concert on Feb. 6.