Listen to a Winter Wonderland


Priscilla Baek

Saba Najafi performs “Mad Russian Christmas” on the piano during the second night of the winter concert.

Priscilla Baek, Features Editor

Crimson poinsettias lined the stage apron for the Winter Concert in the theater Dec. 20-21, 2017. As Christmas trees were adorned with lights, band, guitar, orchestra and choir conjured up a winter wonderland out of the evening silence.

Although usually overlooked, the percussion ensemble showcased its budding talents in the first night. In the adaptation of “Away in a Manger,” percussion ensemble used the tremble of mallets to create a gentle background for the twinkling melody of the marimba and glockenspiel.

“I didn’t realize with percussion that usually you just think about drums, but it was a production at a level that I’ve never experienced. I loved it, and to see the kids and know that they are our kids, I’m so impressed,” Assistant Principal Kris Linville said.

With over a year of experience, Guitar Two students created a collaborative Christmas sing-along. Unlike other performances, audience members were invited to sing along with “Let It Snow” and “Jingle Bell Rock”as the guitarists strummed. Songs were accompanied with not only bursts of Christmas carol but clapping and whistling too.

“We picked ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ because we thought it was a relatively easy song to learn and play,” Guitar Two sophomore Alexander Hwang said. “We used a basic strumming pattern in the song.”

The festivity continued as Concert Band played the classic “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Johann Sebastian Bach and a Jewish song, “Bashana Haba’ah,” that speaks of hope for the new year. Concert Band ended with the recognizable “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that got its listeners bobbing their heads to the upbeat rhythm.

True to Visual and Performing Arts department chair Desmond Stevens’ gravitation to darker renditions of holiday music, Symphonic Orchestra complete with wind, string and percussion instruments, played “Fantasia on ‘Greensleeves,” which evoked a longing for something lost.

Stevens pushed the boundaries of Christmas carolling by combining the fuller Concert Chorale with Symphonic Orchestra, rounding out the year with a joyous reminder to appreciate the holidays for “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

“I think it absolutely united Portola. [The last song] was sort of the monster orchestra and choir event and really celebrated the spirit of the season, of being together, of being part of a family, community and school and celebrating that through music,” Stevens said.