In what promises to be an aesthetically evocative evening, Blair Academy will present the annual Spring Concert on Friday, April 28.
The School’s student musicians, including the Singers, Chamber Choir, Jazz Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra, will take the stage to perform a variety of pieces, from James Brown’s bluesy, brass-heavy “I Got You (I Feel Good)” to Antonin Dvorak’s symphony “From the New World,” among others. The finale, a sweeping orchestral anthem, builds to a resounding crescendo that will captivate listeners. Jennifer Pagotto, Performing Arts Department Chair and Director of Instrumental Music, is excited to hear the students’ repertoire performed before a live audience.
“All of the music is special to the ensembles for specific reasons, but one piece in particular that we’re excited about is our concert closer,” Mrs. Pagotto explains. “It’s amazing to see the level of musicianship our students bring to the piece. It’s a very cinematic piece, which will translate well to the concert stage.”
Preparing on the International Stage
Blair’s musicians have spent months preparing for the Spring Concert. In addition to academic-day music courses, rehearsals and private lessons, 70 of the School’s musicians have just returned from a European performance tour that offered the opportunity to practice their musicianship in the soaring, ancient cathedrals of England and France.
Director of Vocal Music Ryan Manni credits the European tour with pushing Blair’s student vocalists to new levels. Adapting quickly to new environments and performance spaces, Blair’s Singers learned to make adjustments extemporaneously to the challenges presented by unheated cathedrals and minute sound reverberating off stone. “We had a chance to build on our skills and refine with each performance,” he says, “and our choirs did so with aplomb.”
Getting by with a Little Help from Friends
As for the School’s instrumentalists, they also rose to the occasion in Europe, interacting with new audiences and learning to play alongside renowned musicians. One of those student instrumentalists, violinist and concertmaster Julian Huang ’23, notes that both the European tour and this concert hold special meaning for him, as they mark his last performances before graduating. “I'm really going to miss the Orchestra and playing with my friends,” he says. Julian and fellow violinist Arthur Lee ’24 struck up a friendship at Blair, and Julian notes that the pair have traveled the world together, pushing themselves to be better musicians along the way. “We’ve been making music for four years, and this concert will be the culmination. It will show off everything we’ve learned.”
Senior Justin Baggett ’23, who has been a member of the Singers all four of his years at Blair, can relate to that sentiment. Justin joined the Singers during his ninth-grade year “just to fulfill a requirement,” but quickly got hooked. “My first year, I just loved it. It was super fun and I found it hard not to be happy at practice. You could be having a hard day and you go in there and turn it around.”
In addition to attending music class three times a week, Justin and a number of classmates started putting in the extra time to listen to rehearsal tracks outside of class, to stay up to date with upcoming pieces. Like Julian, Justin found that a camaraderie was born. “It’s interesting, the group dynamic in Singers is so strong. It’s a cool thing to do together.”
This Friday, Justin will make his debut at the Spring Concert as the School’s student conductor. In that leadership role, he selected “Simple Gifts” as one special song for the group to perform. “This is a really nice piece we’re excited to sing. We've been preparing once a week every Friday, working through the different sections of the song. I taught the tenors and bases their parts and then taught the altos and sopranos their parts. We are very excited to share it with our family and friends and for the audience to see all our hard work come together.”
Tomorrow night’s repertoire is the culmination of months—and for many graduating seniors, years—of practice, and our student musicians have traveled everywhere from the towering cathedrals of Europe to the practice rooms and stages of Blair in an effort to hone their skills. Join us in the DuBois Theatre tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. for an unforgettable performance.