As she readied the chorus for the final selection of Tuesday’s Claremont Middle School “Holiday Highlights” concert, Ginny Formidoni mouthed one instruction, sotto voce, to her charges,
“Sing loud,” she whispered.
With good reason – at that point, nearly 175 student musicians were assembled, ready to perform a four-song medley of seasonal standards. The throng included the combined 7th and 8th grade bands, and a large chorus drawn from singers of all three grade levels.
More impressive than the size of the gathering was the quality of the numbers played. The one-hour show, led by band director Seth Moore and chorus conductor Formidoni, shed new light on some familiar favorites. The arrangement of “Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” as performed by the 7th and 8th grade chorus was bright and bouncy.
The CMS Jazz Band gave snap and swagger to and old standard with the recast “Swingin’ Jingle” version of “Jingle Bells.”
The evening began after Moore finished guiding the last of the band members to their seats, offering words of encouragement to each as they passed – “tuck the shirt in, looking good, lose the gum, you look great.”
The 6th grade band began the music with a crisp rendition of “Blues Blueprint,” including a brief, spot-on trombone solo from Luke Brunelle. An animated percussion section helped the young band’s final number, “Flourish,” earn sustained applause from the packed house.
There was lots of clapping, harmony and tradition in the combined chorus’s performance of “Children Go Tell It,” an energized gospel number written by Greg Gilpin.
The CMS Jazz Band’s three-song section included “Feliz Navidad,” much polished since their October workout with Arturo Sandoval. Even two months after the famed trumpet player’s visit, Moore was still giddy about Sandoval’s time with the band prior to his performance at the Hopkins Center in Hanover.
“He never works with kids this age,” said Moore before the show. Introducing the Jose Feliciano Christmas song, he called Sandoval “the greatest trumpet player alive playing Latin music.”
The Jazz Band’s version of “Go Daddy-o” was a concert highlight, with rapid syncopation, and a sharp call-and-response bridge straight out of Cab Calloway. The well-practiced percussion section also delivered tight rhythms.
Samantha Perry and Victoria Webster each soloed impressively during the combined chorus performance of “Where Are You, Christmas?” They received spontaneous applause midway through the song, first featured in “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”
“We opened with our closer,” said Moore after combined 7th and 8th grade band played the quick-moving “Encanto.”
“A few sixth graders snuck in to the group,” added Moore, who then quipped, “I went to the University of Illinois, so I accept bribes.”
But the bargain struck was for talent, not money, as the ad hoc combined band shone for both songs, keeping up with a challenging musical chart during a medley of holiday classics.
Tuesday’s concert was another example of how the CMS music program continues to deliver impressive results, with high participation from an enthusiastic and talented group of youngsters.