Above: ELHS Music teachers Dave Rosin and Dave Larzelere
Graduating seniors in East Lansing High School’s bands, orchestras, and choir performed solos last night in a concert whose genres ranged from classical orchestra to jazz improv to contemporary song. Teachers Jeff English (choir), Dave Larzelere (band), and Dave Rosin (orchestra) appeared pleased with and proud of their students’ performances, with the students participating in the concert repeatedly showing affection and appreciation for their peers.
Before the concert began, Rosin thanked Larzelere for filling in for him during practices since Rosin has been on leave following the birth of his first child. Rosin spoke to the very large number of pieces students have had to learn and master lately, with so many different performances in this academic year’s concert cycle. A little over halfway through the evening’s program, the orchestra seniors came together under Rosin to perform “Con Te Partiro” by Francesco Sartori.
The concert had started with Larzelere conducting a full orchestra (winds, strings, and percussion) in a performance of an original composition by ELHS trombonist Ellis Hay. Hay has played in band, orchestra, and jazz band and is also captain of the East Lansing Quiz Bowl Team. The complex piece, “An Overture,” featured solos for several instruments, including trumpet and French horn, and was by turns dramatic and meditative.
Kaira Liggett, alto saxophonist, then treated the audience to her soulful, tender rendition of “I’m Through with Love,” accompanied on piano by English. Liggett has been very involved in the band programs at school, including performing as a soloist with the jazz band. In her program bio, she is described as having a love for music that “has always played a key role in her life.”
Next, Rosin conducted the strings for a solo performance by Ayley Shortridge on the violin of “Yesterday” by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Shortridge’s melodic performance highlighted the genius of the McCartney-Lennon collaboration, a collaboration often made especially compelling by string orchestration, as in this case. According to the program notes, Shortridge “has been playing violin since fifth grade, when she decided it would be awesome if she learned to play the fiddle riff in ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia.’”
Senior Maura Last, accompanied on piano by English, sang “I Can Do Better than That” in a spirited performance that showed her substantial experience in theatre. The song tells the story of a woman who wants more out of life and ultimately finds more, in the form of love. Last, a member of the ELsingers, was the only choir member performing at solo recital this year.
Switching gears, the next entry featured Adrian Birge on trumpet performing the Concerto in E-Flat by Johann Baptist Georg Neruda, with Larzelere conducting the string orchestra. Birge’s clear, sweet tone rose above the strings, and became even more evident when he reached the cadenza. Birge has played trumpet with the all-state orchestra and the MSU Concert Orchestra, and has also been an ELHS soccer player, including as a member of the 2014 State Championship team.
Senior Paul Przybylski has long played viola in ELPS orchestras and more recently bass drum for the ELHS Marching Band, but last night he took to the piano to deliver a movement from Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Piano in G Minor. Larzelere conducted the string orchestra in accompaniment. Przybylski’s delivery was confident yet captured the heavy romance of Mendelssohn’s composition.
A six-piece jazz combo took the stage next, featuring Arturo Pena on bass in a performance of “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock. While the central solo came from Pena, the audience also heard solos by Birge on trumpet and Katie Knox on tenor sax. Rounding out the group were Josh Hall on tenor sax, Jordan Ruhala on guitar, and Connor McCornack on drums. As has been true in many a high school jazz concert, Pena’s performance came off as expert and original.
A subset of the jazz combo returned later in the concert to feature senior Josh Hall on the tenor sax, backed by Pena on bass, McCornack on drums, and Ruhala on guitar. The tune this time was John Coltrane’s elegant “Tenor Conclave,” and Hall delivered a smooth, lively take. Hall has contributed his talents to the concert, symphonic, and jazz bands at the high school as well as to the pit orchestra.
Senior Alanna Murray on flute was accompanied by Kate Prouty on piano in a performance of “Pastorale Hongroise” by Albert Franz Doppler. Murray had clearly mastered this evocative and demanding piece, delivering a lyrical performance. Murray has played with many groups while a student, including the ELHS bands as well as the Mid-Michigan Youth Symphony and the Spartan Youth Wind Symphony.
“You never expect the tuba concerto,” one high schooler observed to this reporter last night, yet there was a tuba concerto—namely Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Concerto for Bass Tuba.” The first movement of this piece was performed by Christian Gabler, backed by the full orchestra conducted by Larzelere. Gabler started his brass life playing trumpet but later found “his true instrumental soul mate, the tuba.” The piece varied from a march-like opening to a more urgent feel, with Gabler evoking a full range of expression from his instrument.
The concert closed with Branden Hanks playing “Rhapsody for Euphonium” by James Curnow. Larzelere conducted the accompanying winds and percussion. Hanks made the instrument sing in a piece that celebrates the grandeur of wind instruments. Hanks has been the principal euphonium player in ELHS’s Symphonic Band for three years and has played with the Spartan Youth Wind Symphony.
As the parent of a high school sophomore, I’ve been watching many of these seniors perform for several years. They have clearly matured into their music, now displaying the kind of confidence and musical joy that suggests they will continue to enjoy participating in musical opportunities throughout their adult lives.