A Feast of Holiday Music Coming to HMS

Huntington Middle School’s passion for musical performance will be fully on display next week, as free holiday concerts featuring the band, choirs and orchestra will be held on consecutive evenings.
The band’s Holiday Concert will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. in San Marino High School’s Neher Auditorium. “Let It Shine!,” the choirs’ winter concert, will follow the next night, Dec. 10, in Huntington Middle School’s newly refurbished auditorium, also at 7, and the Orchestra Winter Concert will follow on Friday night, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m in the HMS Auditorium.
The students are eager to show off what they’ve been working on since school started in August.
“When we’re at home, we practice, but that’s just our part,” said Megan Moffat, an 8th-grader who plays flute in HMS’ Wind Ensemble. “So when our parents hear all the parts together, they’re like, ‘Oh, that actually sounds good.’”
Bill McDaniel, the band director, estimates that more than half of the middle school students participate either in band, orchestra or choir, and he attributes HMS’ extensive musical presence to financial support from school boosters.
“We’re fortunate in this community to have a wealth of resources. They’re dedicated to the arts, and it continues right up to the high school,” McDaniel said. “We’re pretty blessed. Just look around. I probably have more instruments than most community colleges do.”
Indeed, for cumbersome instruments such as low brass, it’s not uncommon for McDaniel to provide one instrument that a student can take home and practice on, and another in the band room for rehearsals at school. “That has a lot to do with the PTA,” he said.
McDaniel also shares the wealth. Thomas Simpson, who teaches instrumental music at Carver and Valentine elementary schools, this year had a Carver student step forward and say he wanted to learn the tuba. “[McDaniel] is thrilled,” Simpson said. “I told him I need a tuba and he handed it right to me.”
The Wednesday night band concert will feature three bands of increasing ability: the Spartan Band, the Varsity Band and the Wind Ensemble.
Among the selections to be performed by the Wind Ensemble, meanwhile, is “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Mark de la Vega, who directs instrumental music at the high school, will recite the poem, and the band will play interludes that reflect what’s happening in the text.
Of the concert, baritone player Tyler Hand said, “I think most people look forward to the cookies.” Yes, refreshments will be served after the show, and it’s something of a tradition that cookies are in great abundance.
Derek Jamieson is also looking forward to showcasing vocal talent at the “Let It Shine!” concert.
“As usual, the choirs at HMS have spent the fall developing their sound, their artistry and their musical literacy, all while perfecting a variety of great choral music for performance,” Jamieson said via email. “The choirs will be performing classic works by composers like J.S. Bach and Gabriel Faure, and lighter hits by contemporary composers like James Horner and John Williams. And, as usual, there will be a surprise or two at the end of the evening.”
The program will feature all four HMS choral groups: Cantate (6th-grade beginning choir), Girls’ Choir (7/8 intermediate choir), Boys’ Choir (7/8 intermediate) and Bel Canto (advanced choir whose members are chosen through auditions).
Jamieson noted that although admission is free, seating is limited, so guests are advised to arrive early.
For the Orchestra Winter Concert, Director Rob Folsom promised a mix of “Christmas, holiday and classical music,” featuring the Beginning, Intermediate and Chamber Orchestras.
The classical selections, providing a change-up from the traditional holiday fare, will include pieces by two American composers: “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber and “Hoe-Down” from Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo” ballet. The concert will also feature works by Schubert and Bach, Folsom said.
McDaniel, before leading a band rehearsal one day last week, spoke about the enthusiasm and adventuresome spirit of the kids under his charge. Some show up having played flute or clarinet in elementary school, but are willing to try their hand at less-common instruments so that he can “take what in essence is a treble band from elementary school and turn it upside down.”
So his groups feature oboes, trombones, baritone horns … even bassoons. “There are high schools that don’t have one bassoon, and I’ve got three sitting here,” he said, proudly.
He also expressed gratitude anew for the commitment to the arts made by the San Marino Unified School District, the PTAs and the Schools Foundation. “Kids need to have music,” McDaniel said. “They need to have ways of reaching out and ways of expressing themselves that are constructive. That’s what we do. It’s more than just a holiday concert, it’s a chance for them to find their voice, really.”

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