Choir Brings Holiday Cheer in Choral Concert

Ms. Casalta directs her Period 2 NYSSMA class.   Photo Credit: Ms. Naomi O’Reilly

Ms. Casalta directs her Period 2 NYSSMA class.

Photo Credit: Ms. Naomi O’Reilly

By RONITH MUDHUGANTI and VINSON LIN

Lights! Camera! Sing? The auditorium bursts with sound from a group dressed in black as a woman leads them, waving her hands around like a priest during a sermon.

Ah, of course. If it isn’t the choir, singing away as their teachers direct them throughout the song. This year’s Battle of the Chori (or more formally, Winter Choral Concert) featured Ms. Robin Casalta’s and Ms. Naomi O’Reilly’s chorus classes on Wednesday, December 19 and Thursday, December 20, respectively. 

Winter concerts have been performed since Midwood opened in 1939, displaying Hornet pride every year. Although it has been a competition in the past, this year it was simply a joint concert. The choir comes in four sections: Chorus 1, Advanced Chorus, Chorus 2, and Super Advanced Chorus. Chorus 1 and 2 are taken in the fall and spring and are for beginners who haven’t had any prior music experience.

The chorus classes sang two songs each, with Ms. Casalta’s classes performing one classical and one holiday song, while Ms. O’Reilly’s classes performed one classical and one modern song. The students chose the songs, with a few guidelines.

“They have to be able to be printed on a sheet, be singable, and, of course, be appropriate for school,” said Ms. O’Reilly.

Each teacher had five groups performing various songs by period. Ms. Casalta’s classes sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Non Nobis, Domine,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Vois sur ton Chemin,” and “Let It Snow,” among others. Some of the songs Ms. O’Reilly’s classes sang were “Fill Your Life With Music,” “Tue Tue,” “Pacem, Dona Nobis Pacem,” “Believer,” and “Give Us Hope.”

Ms. Casalta said, “This semester we chose an easier first piece because we had so many guys.”

Since Chorus 1 and 2 require no prior musical knowledge, auditions for acceptance are not necessary, though if the song involves solo sessions, you must audition for that part after school, according to Ms. O’Reilly.

There is a final exam at the end of the semester which tests for pitch, rhythm, diction, harmony, stage presence, and overall performance. This test is graded and will affect students’ averages, which may or may not be helpful if they are to pursue interests in higher chorus classes (Advanced and Super Advanced Chorus).

“Our goal is to expose students to all types of music and language, specifically vocal techniques and teamwork,” said Ms. Casalta.

Preparation for the Winter Choral Concert is demanding. Students practiced everyday in order to perfect every song. One person’s pitch can make or break the song.

“I was very proud of my class,” said Ms. Casalta. “They gave it their all and were very focused during rehearsal and performance.” 

“They’ve come a long way and have been practicing hard,” said Ms. O’Reilly. “They all have different ability levels, and I’m excited to see them perform.” 

As fun as practice can be, there are bound to be mistakes, some enjoyable, others not so much. 

“One time we were rehearsing, and we had a soloist who was supposed to sing, but then the entire class started to sing,” said Ms. O’Reilly. “Something like that can be funny, but they need to get it together.”

“Some kids struggle to get out of their comfort zone,” said Ms. Casalta. “They are so used to partner work that they have a hard time working in a large group.” 

Despite these minor setbacks, the concert went well, the teachers said. The students, however, were their own harshest critics.

“We actually started to speed up, which was not good, but we managed to get back into pace and pitch,” said Danielle Ruperto ’22, Ms. Casalta’s Soprano II student. “Honestly, I think we did pretty good for it being our first concert.”

“We need to improve on memorization,” said Patrick Lin ’22, one of Ms. O’Reilly’s students. “We messed up a part of ‘Perfect.’ And we could work on maturity, as people were hitting each other like maniacs.”

The audience seemed to love the concert. Parents cheered as students supported one another on stage. Almost every song ended with extensive applause from the audience.

“It was amazing seeing the amount of students and parents who came to watch the show,” said Jonathan Li ’20, Midwood’s Junior President.

“They did a really good job. Each group had their own unique sound, and a lot more people showed up to watch it this year. It’s a big improvement,” he said.  


FeaturesCasey Levinson