A Holiday Winter Concert was presented last week by the Highland Music Department, featuring the Choir, Choir Carolers, the Jazz Ensemble and the Concert Band. Since March of 2020 there have been no live musical presentations due to the pandemic.
The Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Dan Shaut, opened the show with ‘Bags.’ a complex piece written by Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet. This was followed by a lively Latin jazz piece by Tito Puente called ‘Ran Kan Kan’ and a final funk and R&B piece called, ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ by Stuart, Gorrie and Ball, members of the Average White Band.
The High School Choir began with ‘Carol of Winter Peace’ by Gustav Holst, followed by the perennial favorite ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from the Messiah by George Frederic Handel. Their last selection was the up-beat pop song ‘Sucker’ by the Jonas Brothers.
In the few minutes it took the Concert Band to set up, members of the Choir Carolers sang a few holiday classics.
The Concert Band, under the baton of Dan Shaut began with the “Last Ride Of The Pony Express” by American composer David Shaffer; followed by ‘Tesla’s Dream’, by Gary D. Ziek, Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Emporia State University in Kansas. Michael Bown’s ‘Pixar Movie Favorites’ was followed by ‘Deus Ex Machina’ by composer and arranger Randall D. Standridge.
The Concert Finale brought together members of the Concert Band and the Choir to perform ‘Christmas Is For Children’ by Robert Shaut, father of Band Director Dan Shaut.
When classes were shut down last year both Shaut and Matthews conducted their instruction over Zoom.
“It was definitely a challenge, especially because of the technology, nobody can make sound at the same time, and we did a lot with recordings,” Matthews said. “It’s been awesome,” since school has returned to in-person learning in September, but, “we’re singing with masks the whole time, we’re three feet apart in our rooms and we’re following any new guidelines that come out. The kids have been amazingly resilient and have never complained about singing with the masks at all and making wonderfully powerful sounds with this [masks] in their way.”
Matthews said the concert went very well.
“I’m really, really proud; they gave it their all, they had a lot of energy and showed their confidence and did an awesome job,” she said.
Shaut concurred, also citing the resilience in his young musicians.
“The kids who came back [to band] really want to be here and make music. I think they appreciate it more and I feel like I do too in actually having a live concert,” he said. “The stuff online is just not the same.”
Matthews chose ‘Carol of Winter Peace’, “because there are the three parts going on and every part also got a section to be featured. There were some unison moments that also split into parts and I really liked that it was in ¾, which is a time signature that is not always done and is a nice ballad feel. The ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ is a tradition for us. I was looking for an upbeat closer and looked at a ton of pieces and came up with a list of about 8 pieces and in a rehearsal. I had the kids listen and vote. When I heard ‘Sucker’ I didn’t want to like it but I love it.”
Matthews approached Shaut about this piece and both thought having members of the jazz band join with the choir would be perfect.
Shaut said choosing the Milt Jackson piece for the concert was just right, noting that “I am a jazzer myself and I like to bring in traditional jazz music as much as I can.”
Shaut said the kids are recording his father’s ‘Christmas is for the Children’ while learning about the music industry in the process. They are making a single, doing press releases and ‘one sheets’, which are one page sales sheets aimed at landing a performer a gig or helping the sales of albums.
“The entire music department at the High School is involved in the piece and it’s cool because my dad wrote it 20 years ago. He is a retired teacher but is still an active musician and composer now,” he said.
Shaut and Matthews thanked the Highland administration.
“Everyone is so supportive and wonderful,” she said, with Shaut adding, “They know the importance of making music together and the administration has been fantastic.”