EHS hosts choir concert

Evanston High School Vocal Jazz I soloist Madison Sepos takes her turn in the spotlight during the group’s rendition of, “I Say a Little Prayer.” (HERALD PHOTOS/Sheila McGuire)

EVANSTON — For the first time this school year, Evanston High School choir students were able to perform for a live audience when the EHS vocal music program had a concert in the high school auditorium on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 20. In some ways, the concert was a significant departure from past performances, while in others — most notably the outstanding musical talents on display — the evening offered exactly what audiences have come to expect.

In order to hold the concert at all, EHS had to submit a plan to both local and state public health officials in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. All audience members were required to wear masks and were asked to sit only with members of their immediate household and maintain spacing between groups. Concertgoers were also asked to respond to a health survey and stop by a temperature kiosk when entering the building to screen for symptoms.

The students themselves, from four separate choirs, also wore masks whenever not actively singing, including between numbers and while seated in the auditorium watching their peers perform. Vocal music director Heather Blackwell wore both a cloth face mask between numbers and a clear face shield when conducting. Students also spread out far more than is customary on stage to try to keep distance between one another while singing.

All COVID precautions aside, however, the evening featured multiple fun and thoughtful selections, many of which were a reflection of the current state of the world. Chorale opened the concert with “Earth Song,” a piece described as a call to unity during difficult times and that speaks of music and singing as a refuge, followed by, “I Dreamed of Rain,” prior to which Blackwell read from the thoughts of the lyricist describing a “world on fire.” Chorale wrapped up with, “Man in the Mirror,” popularized by the late Michael Jackson.

The men’s and women’s mixed choir first sang the piece, “Cangoma,” a traditional Brazilian folk song about freedom for slaves. The mixed choir then sang, “Colors of the Wind,” from Disney’s “Pocahontas,” before closing with, “Music in the Water.”

The two vocal jazz groups brought fantastic energy to their selections. Vocal jazz II began with “Every Day I Have the Blues,” chosen to go along with the class’s study of jazz and the blues, said Blackwell. Immediately afterward, students launched into Stevie Wonder’s, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and then finished their portion with Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train.”

Multiple students had an opportunity to showcase their skills with solos in the numbers performed by vocal jazz I. The group’s opening number – “I Say a Little Prayer,” popularized by Aretha Franklin – Linzy Sharp, Madison Sepos, Aidan McGuire and Riley Ovard sang solo segments and Allyson Sawyer and Andrew Munoz a duet.

Heidi Barton, Mia Isaacson and Marquel Hawkins took turns with solo portions in a tune made famous by Norah Jones – “Don’t Know Why.” Vocal jazz I closed their set and the concert itself with “All or Nothing at All,” featuring some scat singing and some spontaneous dance moves by performing students who seemingly just couldn’t restrain themselves.

The entire evening featured piano accompaniment by Kristen Hutchinson, while vocal jazz II featured Hutchinson, bassist Courtney Sims and drummer Emily Sawyer. Vocal jazz accompanists were Hutchinson, bassist Ayden Anderson and drummer Junior Zermeno.

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