Story and photos by Tara Hefferan
Newaygo Bands brought holiday magic with its annual Winter Concert on Thursday, December 14. The musical extravaganza featured four student bands across Newaygo Middle and High Schools, each showcasing their musical talents to the capacity crowd.
The High School Jazz Band opened the show with “It Swigs Upon a Midnight Clear.” Their rendition enchanted the audience, setting the evening’s festive mood. Then, Director of Bands, Branden Listh, took to the stage, welcoming the community and expressing joy with the student musicians’ hard work and dedication.
Mr. Listh then introduced Assistant Band Director Megan Funk, who led the 6th Grade Band in its inaugural performance together. The students began with the first song they learned in class, “Rain, Rain.” They then progressed through rousing renditions of “Hot Cross Buns,” “Go Tell Aunt Rhodie,” “Good King Wenceslas,” “Jingle Bells,” “Jolly Old St. Nick,” ending the show with “The Dreidel Song.” The order of tunes highlighted the 6th graders evolving skills. As Mr. Listh noted, the 6th graders began their musical journey only a few months ago, with no knowledge of their instruments or the music, but now they can perform for the community.
As the 6th graders left the stage, and the combined 7th and 8th Grade Band took their places, the High School Jazz Band played a moving rendition of “Silent Night.” Then, the 7th and 8th graders claimed the spotlight, with Mr. Listh conducting. Building on the energy of the previous performances, the 7th and 8th Grade Band played three upbeat numbers: “Christmas Encore,” “Christmas Angels,” and “Santa’s Blizzard Escape!” All three tunes demonstrated the young musicians’ developing skills.
As the stage was set for the High School Symphonic Band, the Jazz Band played its two final songs. “Deck the Halls with All Sorts of Funky” and “Trombones Under the Tree” energized the room, with several concert goers dancing along to the familiar holiday music.
The High School Symphonic Band gave the final performance of the night, crowning the evening with three songs that demonstrated tremendous range and talent. “Wintertide” was up first, followed by “Celebrations for Christmas,” and concluding with “An American Christmas.” The Symphonic Band’s sophisticated and polished performance brought the crowd to its feet, with several in the audience offering standing ovations.
The Winter Concert is special, bringing the middle and high school bands together to showcase the immense growth that happens over the course of their musical education at Newaygo. Moreover, the concert marks the specific culmination of individual and collective practices and rehearsals. Said Mr. Listh, “The students did such a fantastic job. The middle school was able to showcase their three months of work. The high school was able to put together their pieces in only one month, and they pulled them together. The students' attitudes have been excellent this year, making sharing the joy of making music enjoyable. The kids have out-performed themselves this year and are a joy to work with."
The Newaygo Bands program has been very successful over the years, regularly earning top spots in local and state contests. Most recently, the Newaygo Marching Band took 3rd place in November’s MCBA State Finals at Ford Field. In the coming months, the Jazz Band will perform at the Alma College Jazz Festival and the Hastings Jazz Festival. Meanwhile, the Symphonic Band is preparing for the District Festival in the first week of March.
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