Pops Night Closes Out the Year for Music

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Students perform in the last musical performance of the year, “Pops Night.”

Lauren Wigren

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Walpole High School held its annual Pops Night concert on May 9, 2014 at 7 P.M. The show was held in the gymnasium and featured performances by  the Concert Band, Concert Choir, Orchestra, Jazz Band, and Jazz Choir.

There was a unique atmosphere in the Gymnasium at Friday night’s performance that was quite unlike that of the annual winter and spring concerts. Audience members sat in the bleachers or at tables decorated with pastel colored tablecloths and napkins. Strips of blue, green, purple, and yellow tissue paper were used to create a massive ceiling decoration that brightened the room. Snacks such as popcorn and pretzels were left out on the tables for members of the audience. Overall, Pops Night was a more casual experience than any of the other Music Department concerts held over the course of the year.

Opening the show was the concert band. Their first number was “Emperata Overture,” a powerful, dramatic piece by Claude T. Smith. The next piece was a light-hearted, upbeat circus march called “Bombasto.” This number proved to be popular with audience members and performers alike. The Band’s final piece for the night was “Fate of the Gods.” Walpole High School alum Emily Muller accompanied the band on baritone clarinet.  The number was the darkest of the three, starting off at a hauntingly slow tempo, before dramatically speeding up briefly on several occasions.  At the conclusion of the number, they received a standing ovation from the audience. The students were genuinely proud of their performance. Junior Joe Burke said, “I think we did fantastic. We were a little shaky at first, but we pulled it together, and it was phenomenal.” Music Department Head Michael Falker later remarked, “This is a good band.”

Taking the stage next was the concert choir, accompanied by senior Brian Hazerjian on the piano.  The first number was the catchy, upbeat “Friend Like Me” from the Disney Classic Aladdin, which featured a brief solo by senior Rory Hardiman. The choir then performed “Witness,” a soulful Gospel piece. The third number was yet another Disney hit entitled “Let it Go” from the oscar-winning animated film Frozen, which featured a solo by senior Genevieve Canavan. The audience responded positively to the number, as many audience members sang along, or at least mouthed the words. The next piece was more obscure. “Jabberwocky—” an eccentric, upbeat, and dark number— included screams by members of the Chorus and an introduction by Mr. Falker, who read the poem of the same name. “Jabberwocky was also the only piece to include percussion–with junior Michelle Murray on the cymbals and sophomore Angela Hurley on the tambourine.  Overall, the Concert Choir created an enjoyable spectacle for all ages with its exciting performance.

After a brief intermission, the show resumed with a speech by Mr. Falker in which he honored all of the music department’s seniors. The third act of the Night was the specially-selected, 16-member Jazz Band directed by Mr. Dan Mackenzie. Their first piece was “Artistry in Rhythm,” a jazzy number that started off slow, but gradually picked up the tempo. The audience applauded Senior Michael St. Germaine’s impressive trombone performance of the piece. The second number, “I left my Heart in San Francisco,” was a slow jazz piece featuring a piano solo by Brian Hazerjian. The final number was a modern, upbeat piece called “Gonna Fly Now.” Mr. Mackenzie dedicated the piece to Mr. Falker and he said, “I’ve been really honored to work with somebody who’s really a musical genius.”

The fourth group to perform was the equally selective Jazz Choir, directed by Bird and Johnson Middle School choral director Lynda Maccini Pavloff. Just as he had for the concert choir, Brian Hazerjian accompanied yet again on the piano. Their first piece was called “Sway,” a Spanish pop number featuring improvised solos by sophomore Angela Hurley and freshman Jake Witherell. Next, they performed “Java Jive,” a blues piece which included solos by seniors Rory Hardiman, Robbie Lederman, and Andrew Hazerjian, sophomore Kaylana Sareen, and junior Katie Trudell. The Jazz Choir snapped their fingers to the beat throughout the performance. The final piece was a lighthearted, catchy tune called “Blue Skies.” Several performers were assigned solos including seniors Genevieve Canavan, Mike McKeon, Nicki Mich, Andrew Hazerjian, and Hardiman.  The seniors thanked Mrs. MP by presenting her with several “thank you” gifts, including an Envy Spa gift card. Regarding the performance, freshman Greg Bond said, “It was good overall. My favorite number was “Java Jive.”

The final act of the night was the Orchestra, which practices throughout the year on Wednesday nights in addition to its daily scheduled rehearsals. The Orchestra’s first piece was “Triumph of the Argonauts,” a slow, powerful piece that  featured woodwind solos by sophomore Julia Muller and junior Nell Gordon.  The more upbeat “Radetzky March” was performed next. Mr. Falker described this piece as a “traditional audience clap-along song.” Their final piece, a song that closed out the evening, was the “Rakoczy March.” When the performance was finished, audience members gave the Orchestra a standing ovation.

The concert was a significant event  for both performers and audience members alike, as it served as a bittersweet fairwell to beloved music teacher Michael Falker. After teaching at Walpole High School for over 30 years, Mr. Falker will retire at the end of the school year. Students performed what would be their final concert under Mr. Falker’s instruction with palpable enthusiasm. “I am definitely going to miss him,” said freshman Emily Hurwitz, who performed with the Concert Band. During intermission, Mrs. Maccini Pavloff spoke to the attendees about working with Mr. Falker over the past several years. Mr. Mackenzie also acknowledged Mr. Falker’s influence on him, as he stated, ” [working with Mr. Falker] is a one-of-a-kind experience. I’ve never met anyone quite like him.” After the speeches, Mr. Falker expressed a desire for Walpole to reinstate elementary school-level strings lessons in the future.

During each act throughout the night, the seniors presented Mr. Falker with several gifts. He received a poster from the Concert band which included several of his favorite cartoon characters, a Doors coffee mug from the Concert Choir, a blanket with Walpole landmarks depicted all over it, as well as several other small gifts.

In honor of Mr. Falker’s retirement, several Walpole High School Music alumni returned to view the performance. Before the Orchestra performed their final piece, they too presented Mr. Falker with gifts, including a book of letters written by members of the class of 1981-2013.

Overall, the show was a memorable event for everyone involved. The audience responded positively throughout the night, and the students who performed enjoyed their time on stage. Mr. Falker’s successor as Music Department Head for next year has not yet been decided; however, the Walpole High School community looks to have the same success next year under new leadership.