The Cleveland choral department created an outlet to enjoy the holidays with the Annual Winter Festival on Dec. 17. The choir conductor, Allison Bassett, opened with the curious question of why people seem to come together in the winter to celebrate music. This theme carried through the rest of the night as every piece performed seemed to create a sense of community. Whether it was the singers on stage or the audience below, it was obvious that everyone could feel the theme of the night through the music. A joyful end of the day was in sight for everyone.
The first thing I noticed as I walked through the doors of the auditorium was the recognizable sound of an organ. Organist Jonas Nordwall brought a ballpark feeling to the winter tunes of the evening, and was a standout throughout the entire show. Pianist James Pick accompanied the singers on stage, playing the ebony and ivory keys fantastically and raising the bar of the show even higher than it already was. Four members of the percussion band (Ian Sage, Jack Lattimore, Maggie Lane, and Liam Means) made a short appearance to play an epic sounding piece named “Gaudet” that was heard earlier this school year at a music assembly. Though human voices may have been the star of the show, the instruments that played alongside made their presence known.
While the concert as a whole was an amazing show of the choir band’s talented singers and beautiful work, multiple moments elevated above being just a high school choir concert and became something even professionals would be astonished to see. One of these moments was when the Daires choir was joined on stage by Daires alumni, some young and some old. Together, the past and present performed an energy-filled rendition of “Deck the Halls in ⅞,” which added a funky groove to the classic winter time tune.
Another memorable moment was when Ms.Bassett had to conduct the piece “Verleih uns Frieden” from memory after lending her stand to an instrumentalist and finding she couldn’t read her notes from the ground. Though there was some tension in the moment, as soon as the song began, it was obvious that the notes were unneeded and that the choir was going to knock it out of the park no matter what. The entire song not only sounded satisfying but felt it too.
My personal favorite of the night was the first piece after the intermission, which was an assembly of all the songs from the film “A Nightmare Before Christmas,” even including the track “This Is Halloween.” Though hearing the spooky songs felt cheeky and even sort of wrong, the potent excitement shown by the performers on stage was infectious and made the melody impossible to dislike.
As the show came to a close, one last song was performed by the choir bands and the choir alumni, that being “Hallelujah.” The performance emitted a candlelight warmth that not many performances today can pull off. Smiles showed on every face in the audience as the soulful song reflected off the walls and into the hearts of every spectator. As the song ended, a longing for holiday joy as magical as what had just occurred became apparent. Though slightly saddened, I knew that sooner than I would think, another year would pass and I would find myself in the same spot I was that night. Though a harsh, cold wind struck me as I walked to my car, I felt warmer than ever thanks to the wonderful voices of the Cleveland Choir.