Student Musicians Shine in Vertical Concerts

Bedford Public Schools instrumental vertical concerts returned last week without restrictions. Around 350 students performed across two nights of standing room only audiences at Bedford High School. Courtesy Image.

The Bedford Public Schools Performing Arts Department hosted two important concerts last week: the Strings Vertical Concert and the Band Vertical Concert. 

Hundreds of student musicians from 4th through 12th grade gathered together in the Bedford High School Auditorium and performed in front of family, friends, and patrons. Last year, vertical concerts were curbed by Covid-19 restrictions: string performers had to wear masks, only a handful of guests could attend, and the traditional all-grade combined piece was dropped. This year, things were back to “normal.” 

The Strings Vertical Concert took place on Tuesday, March 21. As a “vertical” concert, it began with the 4th Grade Orchestra and continued through the 5th, 6th, and 7th/8th Grade Orchestras, BHS Concert Orchestra, and BHS Chamber Orchestra. 

The Lane and BHS ensembles were directed by Brianna Creamer, and JGMS orchestras were led by Lauren Hart. Lane School music teacher Natan Wythe also accompanied groups on piano and mandolin. 

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All pieces centered on a “spooky” theme. Creamer explained that since Bedford does not have a fall concert, it was an opportunity for students to get exposed to Halloween/Masquerade music. Spooky pieces also have more advanced techniques, such as minor keys, tremolos, harmonics, glissandi, and dynamics. Selections included “Arco-ology” by Joseph Compello, “Bats ‘n Bones” by Susan H. Day, “Gargoyles” by Doug Spata, “The Phantom of the Opera” by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and “March to the Scaffold” from Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.” 

The Strings Vertical Concert combined piece ended the concert for the first time since 2019. Courtesy Image: BedfordHSPerformingArts

At the end, more than 200 string players gathered on stage for the combined piece, “Orpheus in the Underworld” by Jacques Offenbach. It was the first time that a combined piece was played since 2019. For Creamer, it was a powerful moment because “when 5th graders are able to play the same piece as 12th graders, they feel an extra boost of confidence.” In her words, the vertical concert is a “showcase of all of the hard work of string students in one evening” and it highlights “how we all need to not only work together, but support each other, to be successful 

Two days later, the Band Vertical Concert opened to a packed audience. Similar to the orchestra concert, the program started with Lane School Band and progressed to Grade 6, Grade 7 and 8 Bands, and BHS Concert Band. Three extracurricular ensembles also performed: the JGMS Jazz Band, BHS Jazz Band, and BHS Marching Band. Nicole O’Toole conducted the Lane and JGMS bands, and the JGMS and BHS bands performed under Jim Felker. 

The combined piece at the end of the Band Vertical concert had two conductors directing the 180 student musicians. Courtesy Images.

While the concert did not have a specific theme, it nevertheless featured a variety of challenging repertoire, such as “Rock This Band!” by Sheldon and Boonshaft, “Moonlight Bliss” by Adrian Sims, “Cloud 9” by Lauren Bernofsky, “Jazzmin Tea” by Vince Gassi, “Autumn Leaves” by Joseph Kosma, “Furaha!” by Brian Beck, and “Everybody’s Everything” by Santana. The final piece was “Call to Freedom” by Naoya Wada, which involved about 180 band students – it even needed two conductors! 

Overall, both concerts were great accomplishments for Bedford students, and they represented a return to normal for music in Bedford. Performing Arts Director Nicole O’Toole summed it up by saying that students come from “a variety of life experiences and different family cultures” and yet they are able “to be expressive as an ensemble [and] work together for a common artistic goal. That is something which is beautiful and should be celebrated!”

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