ASTORIA — For the third year in a row the Ilwaco High School choir, symphonic and jazz bands performed on the stage of Astoria’s historic Liberty Theater last Wednesday night. The show featured multi-song sets from each of the groups, in what has become a standout event for them.
“We are very pleased to be here,” said IHS music director Rachel Lake at the beginning of the show. “This is one of our favorite concerts of the year. Because, how often in our town do you get to see a hall as beautiful as this?”
The 46-person symphonic band got things underway with a four-song set, opening with a suite of tunes from the musical “Aladdin,” including “Arabian Nights,” “Friend Like Me,” “Prince Ali” and “Whole New World.”
And with the musical group moving into the festival portion of their performance schedule, they brought pieces they are working up for that purpose.
“When you perform at a festival there is a certain formula for how you are to perform,” Lake explained to the nicely filled auditorium. “You have to perform a ‘lyrical’ piece, a ‘grand’ piece and a march. So you’ll be seeing a lot of that tonight.”
For symphonic band, that included “Redemption” by Rossano Galante, their lyrical entry. Lake said the first time the band played the song it gave her goose bumps.
“They put so much passion into how they perform,” Lake said. “So hopefully you can feel [that].”
For their ‘grand’ piece, the band performed a suite of five songs from the musical “Westside Story” — “Maria,” “Tonight,” “One Hand, One Heart,” “Cool” and “Somewhere.” Lake heard some chuckles from the audience when she mentioned how the kids have made a joke out of having “snap fights.”
The band rounded out their set with one of John Phillip Sousa’s most famous marches, the “Washington Post March.” The choice was inspired by one of the musicians’ parents asking Lake why they never played Sousa anymore.
After a brief resetting of the stage, the IHS concert choir, with Lake accompanying on piano, continued in the earlier musical theater theme with the song “Seize the Day” from “Newsies.”
The choir’s second song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” was originally written as coded traveling instructions for slaves fleeing to the North on the Undergound Railroad.
The choir dipped back into musical theater for the theme from “The Phantom of the Opera.” Lake took the opportunity to mention how the Liberty Theater is known as one of the most haunted places in Astoria.
“If you have not yet had an opportunity to use the lower level restrooms — they’re very creepy,” she said.
Introduced as being from the 2001 movie, “Shrek,” the choir next performed the signature 1984 Leonard Cohen song, “Hallelujah.”
The choir ended with Marta Keen’s “Homeward Bound,” featuring seniors Chris Wood, Jasmine Judd and Reese Tynkila as the leads.
“It really means a lot to the seniors because the lyrics note that you ‘have to let them go,’ because they can’t stay there forever,” said Lake while introducing the song. “But I love the lyric that says ‘if you let them go, they’ll come back.’
“I’ll still be here if you come back and say hi!”
After one more stage reset, the IHS jazz band closed out the night with an upbeat five-song set. The group opened with the theme from the TV show “American Bandstand,” Charles Albertine’s “Bandstand Boogie,” which featured a solo from Christopher Lake on muted trumpet.
IHS teacher and local musician of note Tom Trudell — whose son plays sax in the band — joined the group on piano for the David Sanborg song, “Bang Bang.”
“He’s absolutely fantastic,” said Lake, to a roar of applause from the crowd.
The song featured solos from Lindsay Hunt on sax — a Naselle High School senior who plays with the jazz band.
The group followed it up with the 1940 Glenn Miller tune, “Pennsylvania 6-5000,” which supposedly references the oldest continually operated telephone number in New York City, the Hotel Pennsylvania. Christopher Lake once again soloed on trumpet, as did Brendan Chabot on sax.
The group did their take on the classic Booker T. and the M.G.’s 1962 song, “Green Onions,” with Hunt, Chabot and Tristan Trudell all soloing on sax.
The jazz band had planned the raucous favorite, “The Chicken,” by Alfred Ellis as their closer. The groove-heavy piece featured multiple solos, including McKenzie Mulinix on bass.
But once the song was done, the crowd wanted more, inspiring the band to pull out an encore of “Zoot Suit Riot.”
Lake mentioned that the jazz band will be competing at the Reno Jazz Festival at the University of Nevada next month.
They will also be hosting their biggest event of the year, the annual Jazz Night Club at the Chinook School Event Center over Mother’s Day weekend.