School brings the holiday spirit online

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This school year, Townsend Harris premiered its first virtual Holiday Special, an event that replaced the annual Winter Concert. Organized by music teacher Kevin Heathwood and Assistant Principal Veronica York, the online concert featured pre-recorded performances from the chorus, piano class, symphonic winds, chamber strings, symphonic strings, and the jazz ensemble. It also included performances by members of the Drama Club and Hawkapella, as well as pieces by students in the Studio Art department. 

“The virtual showcase was just the right length and showcased many different aspects of Townsend Harris’ artistic expression, including bands, strings, chorus, Hawkapella, art, and drama,” said music teacher Mariko Sato. “I always like collaborating between the different artistic disciplines, but logistically it is hard to make it happen in live performance. Ms. York had this idea of a collaborative showcase of the different departments from the start and it worked.” 

The concert started off with musical performances directed and edited by Dr. Sato. The beginners’ piano class performed a few of their favorite pieces. Members of the more advanced piano class performed Pachelbel’s Canon in D as winter-inspired art pieces from Art teacher Margherita Wischerth’s art classes were displayed on the screen. “I think it’s nice how they included each group and the holiday pieces virtually. It definitely helped keep me in the holiday spirit,” said freshman Simran Deonarine. To end this set of performances, the chorus featured freshmen Sally Zheng and Kaia Lain as the main vocalists for their cover of Creep by Radiohead.

As a teaser for the next musical performance, members of Drama Club and some from the chorus performed a spoken word poem, narrating stories about students who have unique qualities, from being short, to being diagnosed with ADHD, to being neurodivergent. The poem emphasized that no one should feel ashamed about their differences through the repetition of the phrase “This is Me.” This spoken word transitioned into a song of the same name from The Greatest Showman, performed by the chorus. The performance included solos from sophomore Mace Choo, freshman Bella Kiliski, sophomore Jesse Lawson, sophomore Cora-Grace Sagario, and freshman Sally Zheng.

“I appreciate that the holiday show, specifically the chorus song and small skits, were centered around being confident and yourself and loving who you are because in today’s society, people are constantly being judged by others and themselves,” said freshman Camila Estevez. “With social media having such a big impact on our lives, it can be hard to see what a wonderful and beautiful person you are, without trying to compare yourself to others. The main theme of individuality truly shines a light on what we should be focusing on improving as a society, to help us become more advanced and accepting towards each other.” 

This year’s concert also featured a performance from the symphonic winds class. Members performed A Celebration of Hanukkah (arr. Howard Rowe), Christmas Concerto (arr. Robert W. Smith), Movement I – Joy to the World, featuring senior Eric Han, Movement II – Silent Night, featuring junior Matthew Babayez, and Movement III – Deck the Halls, featuring sophomore Rebecca Ortiz. Other notable musical performances included the orchestra’s performance of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance and No. 5 Palladio by Karl Jenkins, as well as the jazz ensemble’s performance of  The Holiday Waltz, composed by Julie Styne and arranged John Barry, with senior Arnold Ye featured on the alto saxophone and freshman Dominique Silabon featured on the trumpet.

Continuing the theme of self-love and self-acceptance, senior Zoe Tylipakis performed a passionate spoken word poem entitled “Beautiful,” with music playing in the background. Members of Hawkapella, under the direction of their advisor and physics teacher David Stern, also performed a Beatles Love Medley, including songs such as Can’t Buy Me Love and Love Me Do.

Closing out the concert, members of the jazz ensemble performed a rendition of This Christmas with vocalist Weiye Yasen, composed by Donny Hathaway and arranged by Mr. Heathwood. Junior William Rhee and sophomore Justin Hwang performed original solos on the electric guitar and senior Emmanuelle Monahan performed a solo on the keyboard. 

Sophomore Cora-Grace Sagario said, “I loved watching this holiday special. It was really nice to see how everyone could still create something as great as the Winter Concert, because this was technically our COVID version of our annual Winter Concert, which I was lucky enough to be in last year on the actual school stage. It is sad that the current freshmen in chorus right now don’t get to have that experience of performing in front of people, but I hope it felt like it for them with this holiday special. And I definitely enjoyed being a part of this special.”