During the Holiday Season, the musical arts come alive! From the innumerable performances of the timeless ballet The Nutcracker to the classic Christmas tunes played in every mall, it is impossible to escape the music of the most festive time of year. Everywhere you turn, there are examples of Christmas and music intertwining to spread holiday cheer. The two are inseparable!
Neither spared from the influx of Christmas cheer, Jesuit and Ursuline come together every year to put on an exciting collaborative concert called Sounds of the Season. Featuring the Jesuit-Ursuline Concert Band, the String Orchestra, the UA Singers, and the “Satin Dolls” Jazz Choir, the concert brings both schools together for an extensive musical event covering a multitude of musical forms with one common theme, holiday spirit.
Last Sunday was the 31st annual performance of Sounds of the Season and was held in the Ursuline Academy Center for Performing Arts. Each musical ensemble performing a variety of music throughout the night; there was something for everyone to enjoy at the concert. Including marches such as Stars and Stripes for Christmas performed by the Concert Band, somber carols like Silent Night by the UA Singers, and comedic songs like The Twelve Days After Christmas sung by both the “Satin Dolls” Jazz Choir and the UA Singers, Spirit of the Season definitely did not limit itself to a single musical style. Regardless of the variety, however, each piece was performed to the highest of standards that the hardworking students from both schools set for themselves. The persistent level of quality made it evident that each musician puts great passion into every selection of music.
When asked to compare Sounds of the Season to the other Christmas concerts that many of the ensembles also perform, Donovan Putnam, director of the Concert Band, believes that “they are all equally special” because they all give students “the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with the power of music.” It is the common subject matter, Christmas, which makes the concerts special rather than the individual characteristics of one versus the others. That is not to say, however, that they are all the same. Mr. Putnam said that Sounds of the Season “had a little bit of everything and showcased a variety of performances” which separated it from the rest. However, this variety raised some logistical issues, noted Mr. Putnam. Physically, the Concert Band had to move percussion equipment to and from Ursuline. Musically, the directors had to choose pieces that fit the skill level of the band, were not already being played by another ensemble, and, of course, sounded good. Ultimately, Mr. Putnam’s goal was that “students have a great time playing beautiful music in celebration of Christmas.”
Performing in the Concert Band and String Orchestra, the multifaceted Ursuline Freshman Melinda Miller had to play a game of musical chairs during the concert so she could play both the flute and the piano. Rather than the musical challenge of changing instruments, Melinda said that the biggest obstacle was the physical transitions between ensembles. Elaborating on the challenge, Melinda explained, “I was wearing a long dress that still reached the floor even though I was wearing heels. Every time I switched, I tried walking at a fast pace without the heels making too much noise. I tried to keep my dress up so that I wouldn’t trip or knock something over.” Obviously, the difficulty of the music is an utterly trivial matter in comparison. This may be partly due to Melinda’s involvement in music since an early age, starting the piano at the age of six and the flute at the age of ten. In both cases, she was influenced by her equally musical older brother, Jesuit Senior Matthew Miller, alto saxophone player for the Concert Band. When asked about her expectations for her first Sounds of the Season concert, Melinda said, “Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect.” However, she walked away loving the “loud and exciting” music of the Concert Band that “makes people interested.” Looking forward, Melinda hopes “to see new [songs] for the future.”
Also performing in two of the ensembles was Ursuline Senior Mercedes Salazar, a bassoon player in the Concert Band and a singer in the “Satin Dolls” Jazz Choir. Similar to Melinda, Mercedes was confidant in her ability to transition musically but found difficulty in actually moving from the Concert Band to the Choir. “It was stressful getting back to my spot on time,” she remembered. However, all the effort was worth it to her because of the great music she got to play in both ensembles. Specifically, she noted that “the song Twelve Days After Christmas was my favorite part of the concert this year” because it “showed what happened after the original Twelve Days of Christmas” with a comical twist. However, she also loves the collaboration between all the ensembles because “it makes the concert more magical and amazing.” As a senior, Mercedes said, “It still hasn’t really sunk in that it’s my last Christmas concert, but I’m really sad that it is because it’s my favorite one.”
This year’s concert was also the last for Senior Dominic Iannelli, trombone player and Band President. After four years of performing in the concert, he has slowly risen in the ranks to play the most coveted parts of the Christmas classics. Dominic explained, “As time has passed and the upperclassmen before me have left, I’ve got to start playing the first part in songs. In other words, I’ve got to play all the famous melodies and it’s made the concerts even more fun for me.” Along with the additional responsibility every year, Dominic also “gradually appreciated the music of the orchestra and choir more and more.” However, during the concert, he missed the graduated upperclassmen who used to play the iconic parts that he does now. When asked about his most memorable part of the concert, Dominic said it is always the final song which is performed by all three ensembles. “The combined sound is just amazing…It reminds me of the Dallas Symphony with all the strings and wind instruments and singers collaborating to create incredible music.” Performing together gave Dominic the chance to “appreciate some diverse music that I wouldn’t normally get to experience otherwise.” It also gave him the added benefit of “seeing my friends in the orchestra and choir perform and then getting to perform for them.” After all, Christmas is the season of giving and sharing. But, unfortunately, the last song of the concert was very bittersweet for Dominic because it was the final one he would ever play in a Sounds of the Season concert. He explained that “During the last song, I really just tried to soak it all in. I looked around and realized a year from now I’ll be gone from the band and all the friends I’ve made over the past four years. I’m really going to miss it.”
The Sounds of the Season concert was just a small part in the vast wave of holiday music that comes this time of year but that does not mean it was insignificant. The musicians from Jesuit and Ursuline put immeasurable amounts of time, effort, and emotion into their performance and deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments by the community. Come to Sounds of the Seasons next year to get yourself into the holiday spirit!