The New Paltz High School auditorium was transformed into a jazz-infused, musically inspired Winter Concert this past Thursday.
Led by band director Ralph Schroer, the Jazz Ensemble wowed the crowd with sizzling renditions of “Peg,” followed by “Josie” and ending with “Kid Charlemagne,” all by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan. Tal Schwartz performed a solo on the trumpet, as did the über-talented Sergio Nazaire on piano.
After the Jazz Ensemble got the crowd into a sweet groove, it was followed by the Mixed Choir, directed by Nicole Ferrante. The choir began with an upbeat Nigerian folksong, “Dide ta Deo,” accompanied by Athalie Brutus, Alexis Kane, William Kay and Zynab Makki on African percussion. The choir continued in a spiritual vein, but at a more somber tempo with “Homeward Bound” by Marta Keen. Isabelle Terón and Paul Knoth both enchanted the standing-room-only audience with their powerful solos; Nazaire accompanied them on the piano.
Ferrante then told the audience in somber terms that this “next song has come to mean a lot to our choir. We hope you will find the deep meaning in it that we do. Listen closely to the words.” The song turned out to be a hysterical rendition of Peter Schickele’s “Good King Kong Looked Out,” complete with choruses on big feet, operatic squishing sounds and all the members of the entire choir busting out their kazoos! The set ended on a happy note with the late, great Marvin Gaye’s “Dancing in the Street.”
Then the Brass Quintet took the stage, including Schwartz and Jackson Beveridge on trumpet, Emily Beecher on French horn, Noah Pomerselig on bass trombone and Eric Lawson on trombone. This incredibly talented group of jazz musicians, led by Schroer, performed some beautiful yet technically challenging pieces such as the Rondeau by Jean Joseph Mouret (familiar as the theme from Masterpiece Theatre), the Largo from Xerxes by Handel and Farandole by Georges Bizet.
There was a quick change of scene when the smoky feel of the jazz quintet exited the stage and the Glee Choir entered with a music-and-dance performance blending two hit songs by Adele, “Rumor Has It” and “Someone like You.” Sarah Stamberg and Samantha Reiss performed powerful solos
The ensemble followed up that number with a rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Mean” that had some gutsy solos by Giannina Crocitto and Olivia Cea. The performance had the entire audience swaying, and there was even one couple dancing in the aisles. The amount of musical talent in that room electrified the air and at the end they received a well-deserved standing ovation.