ILWACO - With singing that could only be matched by the smiles it left on proud parents faces, the Peninsula elementary schools - Ocean Beach Primary and Hilltop - lit up holiday hearts with three concerts this past week.
Things got underway on Monday with a performance by the Hilltop band that featured both the fifth- and sixth-grade bands.
"It was the first concert for the fifth-grade band, and they did a wonderful job," said Hilltop music instructor Brian Bergman. "This performance is a highlight for all students, but for those students specifically."
They performed five songs from their beginning band book, Yamaha book one, performing "as accurately as I have ever heard them," said Bergman. They also were invited to perform solos or in small ensembles to add to the excitement, most of the fifth-graders volunteered to do this.
"They were very brave and played well," said Bergman.
At the end of the fifth-grade performance they did an arrangement of Jingle Bells where each instrument played a different part.
The sixth-grade band finished the first year Yamaha band book this fall and are already into book two. They performed five short, unison songs from those books. A week before the concert, the students chose their best songs from those books by voting.
"Their choices were very appropriate, and they performed the songs well," said Bergman.
The sixth-graders were also invited to perform solos or in small ensembles, with about half of them performing in those groups, and sounded very good.
Since the sixth-graders have more playing experience, they were able to perform more band arrangements. They did four full-page band arrangements, including "Let's Go Band I," "Creepy Crawlies," "Bluesville," and "Rockin' On Home."
"The most exciting thing about this concert for me was the grand finale," said Bergman of the performance where the band students, in both fifth and sixth grade, came onto the stage to play "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
"The neat thing about that is how excited that the sixth grade was to play along with the fifth grade, and vice versa. The older players were both helpful and supportive of the younger ones. Their strong mentorship really builds a solid band for the future."
Hilltop Choir ShowTo start off the Hilltop choir concert on Tuesday night, the third- and fourth-grade choir performed two bilingual songs, "Feliz Navidad" and "Al Quebar Pinata," that included Kenneth Brisbin on maracas and Ashley Plunkett on claves. Wilma Frankovich also led her choir through the holiday classic, "Silver Bells." And though the canned backing track was a bit on the scratchy side, the children's voices were able to get past the suspect sound quality.
Bob Walters' fifth-grade choir was noticeably smaller than the third- and fourth-grade one, mostly because the other is a regular class, while in fifth and sixth grade it is an elective class. This led to some improvisation in their performance.
"One thing about this group - they like to do dance routines," said Walters while introducing the first song.
To the sounds of "Jingle Bell Rock" two sets of dancers took to the front of the stage to help illustrate the tune. The second song involved a little prop work, with Walters setting up two music stands on the left side of the stage and then draping a black cloth over it, creating a little hiding spot for Cierra Coffin. As the rest of the group sang the unusual tune "Little Blue Man," at the chorus Coffin would pop up and sing "I wuv you. I wuv you. I wuv you to bits." To which the choir replied, "and scared me right out of my wits." The song revolves around a character who continues to see this strange blue man, though no one else can, and is driving him crazy. In the end, the character tosses the tiny creature from a rooftop in hopes of getting rid of him - to which Coffin sings her tag line as if she was falling further away. But, on the street below the character runs into the blue man once more, who says in a sad voice, "I don't love you any more!"
For their third and final number, Walters explained that out of necessity - Walters has been quite busy with several projects and a relative's poor health - he wrote a song, which he said he doesn't do very often. Though simple in its lyrics, its message of the repeated verses was meaningful.
"Where do we go, where do we start, to find Christmas joy? Begin with your own heart."
The sixth-grade choir took the stage and got their set rolling with the popular Brenda Lee tune, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," complete with a kazoo solo by Kyle McDaniel, which garnered some giggles and a good ovation.
"Does that Kyle blow a mean kazoo or what?" said Walters after the song.
Much like the previous choir, the sixth-graders pulled some tricks out of their hats for their performance as well, this time enlisting Valerie Stromberg to sing a solo during, "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," dressed in holiday PJ's and Teddy bear in tow. Also on stage were Christian Albrecht, playing the part of Santa and Angel Wilson, sitting atop his lap and playing with his artificial beard - that is until he dropped her in the middle of the song.
"Get a hold of her Santa!" said Walters.
The other surprise came as the choir was singing the line, "if daddy had only seen," at the end of the song, when Mitchell Mortenson, who played the actual dad, jumped out of the corner and shouted at St. Nick, "Hey, wake up my wife!"
The group ended their set and the concert with "Winter Wonderland" without any frills, just good, young harmony.
OBPS show"Christmas makes me shout, 'Yeah Christmas!'" sang the combined kindergarten classes of Ocean Beach Primary School Thursday night to open the program, "Up On a Housetop: A Celebration of Winter Holidays" at the old Hilltop auditorium.
Christmas also made them laugh, smile, clap and dance in their hats that looked like reindeer antlers, made from cutouts of the children's hands as they performed "Christmas Makes Me Sing." The show, directed by Suzanne Knutzen, was performed in two parts, with OBPS kindergartners and second-graders in the first half hour, and first- and third-graders in the second half. This move was to allow for as many people as possible to see the show put on by the combined Long Beach and Ocean Park school children.
The elementary school singing group the Jelly Bean Choir played the part of chimney sweeps, characters that segued the program from one number to another. Each class at the school sang at least one song, with some choreography - though some seemed to be more self conscious about it than others.
As Mrs. Huff's class sang "The Reindeer Twist," one student came down from the stage to grab OBPS principal Bette Arne and had her dance along while the kids sang, "Come on and shake your antlers and twist." Other acts included Mrs. McPhail's class performing "Run, Run, Reindeer," and Mrs. Strom's class performing "There's a Big Fellow in the Chimney" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
With a lot more third-graders at OBPS, the second half of the show was noticeably longer than the first, with 11 of the 18 total songs performed. The Jelly Beans got things going with the Mary Poppins classic, "Chim Chim Cheree." Chimney sweeps Kenzie Sexton, Kelsey Douglas and Reed Sexton spent the majority of the evening introducing the various winter holidays, including Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, solstice and Las Posadas.
Mrs. Williams third grade class performed "Melchior and Balthazaar" and "Little Drummer Boy" with the help of some xylophones and a snare drum. Mrs. Curry's class sang "O, Kwanzaa" in tribute of the African-American holiday, with students dressed in colorful head scarves. To represent Chanukah, Mrs. Person's class sang, "On This Night," while one student lit a candle on an electric mannorah for each verse. Mrs. Benenati's class performed "Pinata" dressed in brown ponchos, and Mrs. Bolden's class performed a Macarena-esque dance routine while singing "Oh Come Little Children."
The Finnish holiday of Santa Lucia Day was represented by Mrs. Mattson's class, with many wearing tall, starry hats, and Alexandria Ellis playing the part of the Lucia Queen, complete with a crown of lingonberry twigs and candles on her head. The traditional Handel holiday song "Joy to the World" rounded out the show.
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