Claremont Middle School Spring Concert

CMS-FullChoirSmallFollowing a week that saw the band win a gold medal in the Great East competition at Six Flags Agawam, and the chorus earn a “Superior” rating at the annual “Trills and Thrills” gathering in Lake George, the Claremont Middle School music program held its final concert of the year.

If the sixth grade band’s performance is any indication, there’s more gold in CMS’s future.  Their highlight of their set was “Symphonette for Band,” which featured individual players and sections.  They also tackled “Spania,” a piece that in years past had been played by the 7th and 8th grade combined band, according to director Seth Moore.

The chorus drew from African, bluegrass and gospel rhythms for their segment, working through the South African folk song “Singahahambayo,” the spirited “Hear That Fiddle Play” medley and Jim Papoulis’s inspirational “Can You Hear.”

The Jazz Band found a swinging, soulful groove.  Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing” featured a tasty percussion break from Dan Seaman and a commanding piano solo from Julie Ahn.

Moore complimented the Jazz Band, made up of dedicated musicians from all three grade levels, for managing to learn “3 new songs a show while spending one hour a week together.”   Over the past nine months, he said, the group has been on the front page of the paper multiple times, and played with Grammy-winning trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.

“It’s been one of Jazz Band’s best years ever,” Moore concluded.

The combined 7th/8th grade band provided a preview of the upcoming Alumni Day Parade, performing War’s “Low Rider” and “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago – two songs the band will march to on Saturday.

A rousing finale of “Phantom of the Opera” ended the band’s performance, followed by the choir’s rendition of “I Have a Dream” and “Come in From the Firefly Darkness,” featuring solos from Meghan Esdon, Alyssa Foisy and Ben Nelson.  The song won the choir an “outstanding” rating at the Lake George gathering, said Choir Director Virginia Formidoni,

Moore and Formidoni presented several at night’s end, including medals for invitees to the Southwest District Music Festival, an elite all-state band and chorus.

Moore joked, “I ran out of money buying trophies.”

Band awards:

Southwest District Music Festival Band participants:
Gabby Cutts
Julie Ahn
Abbey Rouillard

6th Most Improved: Mitchell Kelly
6th Most Outstanding: Erin Truesdell
7th Most Outstanding: Zach Bunnell
8th Most Outstanding: Sarah Porter, Abbey Rouillard
8th Most Improved: Victoria Webster

Chorus awards:

Southwest District Music Festival Chorus participants:
Victoria Webster
Samantha Perry
Alyssa Foisy
Owen Ritondo
Evan Upham

6th Most Outstanding: Elizabeth Gagnon
7th Most Improved: Jamie Carter
8th Most Improved: Samantha Perry, Megan Esdon
8th Most Outstanding: Victoria Webster, Alyssa Foisy

8th Grade Most Outstanding Band and Chorus: Julie Ahn

Middle School Bands Shine At Claremont Opera House

donlaplanteAn enthusiastic crowd of parents and music lovers gathered at the Claremont Opera House Saturday night to hear performances from four area middle school bands. Keene’s St. Joseph Regional School and Kurn Hattin (Westminster, VT) joined jazz bands from the Charlestown and Claremont Middle Schools to showcase their advanced student music programs.

The night also provided an opportunity for many of the young musicians to play in a theatre setting for the first time.

St. Joseph brought the evening’s largest ensemble – nearly 40 musicians, with percussion, bells, electric guitar and drums complementing the ample brass and wind contingency. Director Vicki Moore led them through the Bossa Nova flavored “Mucho Gusto”  and a smooth take of John Edmonson’s arrangement of “Jazz Cat.”

An energized version of “Jump, Jive and Wail,” made popular by former Stray Cat Brian Setzer, closed out St. Joseph’s set.

Kurn Hattin added inventive touches to their three numbers, which included the rousing opener, “Old Time Rock and Roll.”  Vocalist Shania Caswell soloed ably on “New York, New York,” even if she might be a bit young to ‘wake up in the city that never sleeps’.

The KH Jazz Ensemble’s final number brought smiles to the baby boomers in the house, as they rollicked through the theme song of “Scooby Do,” complete with cool shades and a dancing dog.

The Charlestown Middle School band conducted a mini-symposium on the history of music, from 1918 – Bob Carleton’s Dixieland chestnut “Jada” – to 1970, with Chicago’s jazz rock thunderbolt “25 or 6 to 4.”  Their five-song set included Fifties rock from both the East and West Coasts – the Drifters’ “On Broadway” and Richie Valens’ “La Bamba,” respectively.

Led by Julie Armstrong, Charlestown ended their set with a buoyant version of Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

Closing out the night was the host Claremont Middle School band, which stuck to a cool cat groove for their four-song set.  They led off with “Soul Bossa Nova,” the Quincy Jones number most people know from the ‘Austin Powers’ movies.  It was a night for saxophones to show off, with a solo each from tenors Kai Kelyensteuber (on the opening number) and  Sarah Porter (Mike Story’s homage, “Basie-Cally the Blues”) and alto Dylan Metcalf, who had fun with another spy movie theme – James Bond.

But it was drummer Dan Seaman who grabbed the spotlight during the final number, with a drum solo at the end of “Go Daddy-O” whose deft ferocity appeared to surprise even CMS band director Seth Moore.

Between sets, the young at heart Firehouse Six Dixieland Band won over the crowd with ageless standards like “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey,” You Are My Sunshine” and “Hello Dolly.”  They nearly stole the show, with Ed Evensen on clarinet, Gerry Grimo on vocals and squeezebox, along with a spirited tuba solo from Don LaPlante.  Vaughan Hadwen (trombone) and Rich Brown (trumpet) rounded out the brass, with Andy Buchan on the marching drum.

The event was a benefit for Keene-based Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Western New Hampshire,  Kurn Hattin music director Lisa Bianconi commented that their student population “is very involved in the program, so it was an extra special night for them.”

The even both raised awareness and money.  In addition to tickets, a fudge sale in the lobby did brisk business after the show.

Information on Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Western New Hampshire can be found online at or by calling 603-352-9535

Claremont Middle School Holiday Concert

cms-xmas08More Photos of CMS Concert

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.

Trumpet Legend Arturo Sandoval Conducts Seminar at Claremont Middle School

Arturo Sandoval’s simple advice to young musicians is this: “Play with determination; don’t be afraid to make a mistake.”

The Cuban-American trumpet player, who performs tonight at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover, answered questions and conducted a music clinic for the Claremont Middle School band Monday.  For over an hour, he gave them tips helped them rehearse.  He demonstrated his technique and played with them.

He then worked with each section of the band individually – note by note, bar by bar.

“Pay attention to intonation and pitch,” he instructed the saxophone players.  “Hold your flutes straight,” he insisted, demonstrating by tilting his trumpet sideways.

“See there? The first and the fourth are short notes,” he told bass clarinet player Gabby Cutts.

“You have a lot of homework to do,” he finally said, urging them to “cut 15 minutes of Xbox and practice” every night.

Though the students seemed a bit surprised at the rigorous workout, CMS Band Director Seth Moore insisted that he’s just as much the taskmaster.

“They hear it from me all the time,” said Moore.

“It’s good to get a second opinion, though,” he continued. “Especially when that second opinion gets paid two hundred thousand dollars a year to play the trumpet.”

Teaching comes naturally to Sandoval, who is a tenured, full time professor at Florida International University.  But he usually works with older students.  Dartmouth College’s Joe Clifford, who helped arrange the event, called the CMS clinic “unique.”

When Sandoval was asked why he decided to instruct such a young group of musicians, he joked, “It’s a gig.  I never say no to a gig.”

During the Q&A session, a student asked Sandoval if he’d ever thought about playing other instruments. He listed drums and timbales, and then said, “piano is our best teacher to understand music,” he said.  “To write, arrange, orchestrate – all those things.”

Later, he played so well on the school’s upright piano, it was hard to believe it was his second instrument.

When another student wondered if Sandoval ever expected to become famous, he quickly answered no.  In Cuba, he grew up in a house with dirt floors and had to quit school to work at age 9.  No one in his family was musical, he said.  Just being able to play was satisfaction enough.

“My first instrument was the silverware,” said Sandoval.  “Banging them on the counter, it drove my grandmother crazy.”

The first horn he played was cornet, in a marching band, mainly because there was no trumpet for him to use.  Ignoring a would-be teacher who told him he was wasting his time, “I went and played my cornet all day, and I knew this is what I had to do.”

“Music saved my life,” he said.  “It’s a blessing from God that helped every member of my family.”

After nearly an hour of picking apart “Feliz Navidad,” which they plan to perform later this year at a holiday concert, Sandoval asked the band to choose another song.

They agreed on “Swinging Jingle,” a jazzed-up version of the holiday classic “Jingle Bells.”  Sandoval joined in, occasionally giving words of encouragement.  “Get your groove on!” he shouted to drummer Dan Seaman.  “See that title? Swing it!”

The smile rarely left his face.

“I’m still in love with music after 49 years,” Sandoval said.  “I’ve played with so many others, on so many records I’ve lost count.”

“I don’t need drugs, I have the music.”