The Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School of Coventry ushered in the holiday season with their annual winter concert series Tuesday and Wednesday last week.
On Tuesday evening the 7th grade musicians performed, followed the next evening by the 8th graders. The auditorium at the middle school was packed both nights as families came in droves to hear the holiday music students have been practicing for months.
There were other performers both evenings, including the Select Chorus, the Jazz Band, All State singers, and a brass quartet made up of All State students. Band teachers Anthony Costa and Dan Reynolds performed a trumpet and flute duet of "Away in a Manger" during intermission, also.
The Select Chorus, an audition-only group under the direction of Kristen St. Sauveur, is made up of 6th, 7th and 8th grade students who meet for one hour a week to rehearse. They opened both concerts with a few unique songs, including "Where Are You Christmas?" popularized by country artist Faith Hill, "I Will Remember You," and "Africa," popularized by the 80's group Toto.
The chorus began "Africa" by clapping slowly and then gradually getting louder. Then they stomped their feet and snapped fingers, allowing the sound to grow and fade, like an approaching thunderstorm. Students wore all black but decorated their outfits with red accents, like Santa Claus hats, headbands, scarves, and red necklaces. During each song, a few soloists were featured on each song, as well.
The Jazz Band followed Select Chorus at both concerts. This is also an audition group which meets an hour a week to rehearse, and also featured student soloists during the performance. They played a jazzy version of the traditional "The First Noel" and also entertained the audience with a lively rendition of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."
Following the select groups was a brief intermission, during which audience members were able to hear some smaller groups perform. A brass quartet of All State students performed a variety of holiday music. Director Tony Costa proudly told the audience, "This it the first time in the 13 years I've been band director here that I've been able to direct a brass quartet where all 4 kids are All State students."
A group of All State singers performed a few songs, followed by a duet by Costa and Reynolds.
After intermissions, the band and chorus groups performed. Both groups also played a variety of holiday and non-holiday songs, from Spanish-flavored music to Hanukkah and Christmas favorites to a medley of Patriotic songs.
Teachers worked in what Costa called a "collaborative effort to bring together the community member and families in the audience" by composing two sing-alongs for the concerts. For the 7th grade finale, all the band and chorus members along with their three teachers performed a rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and encouraged the audience to join in. The 8th grade concert finale was similar, with musicians and singers from all the musical groups coming together to perform a goose-bump-inducing version of "Oh Holy Night" with which the audience sang along. The student musicians received a well-deserved standing ovation for their performances.
Before the 8th grade concert ended, Costa took to the microphone to tell parents in the audience how much he would miss teaching music to their children next year.
"These are great kids and I'll honestly miss them all dearly next year. Take them to on the way home," he joked of the Coventry tradition of getting ice cream after school events. "These students are hard workers and have come a long way," he said.