Contemporary Songs Highlight Showcase

Kelly Pien, Editor-in-Chief

Performing a collection of popular songs, Chamber singers brought their a cappella showcase to a variety of audiences over the course of 3 days. Performances took place at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School and Los Perales on January 27, for parents and community members in the CPAC on January 28, and for the general Campolindo student body on January 29.

Led by guest director and arranger Kevin Redrico, this year’s setlist focused more heavily on songs currently popular on the radio, including “Geronimo,” “Thinking Out Loud,” “Can’t Feel My Face,” “History,” “Fight Song,” “Superstition,” “Centuries,” “Hey Jude,” and “September.”

“I think the show as a whole is a lot of contemporary stuff. Like I think we’ve kind of always done a pretty equal mix of like, classic rock or standards, as well as like, songs from right now. But this one is perhaps more skewed towards music right now – you know, music that’s on the radio. But there are still classics and standards,” choir teacher Mark Roberts said.

Redrico thought it was important for the vocalists to perform contemporary songs “because they perform in front of audiences of all ages, including young kids to teenagers to adults.”

Roberts was impressed with the arrangements provided by Redrico. “The music chosen, the style in which he arranges, like how he writes the music for the voices to be adapted from the instruments, and also just the way the arrangements end up coming together and relating to the original and how they vary,” were strengths cited by Roberts.

Redrico also brought a new teaching style. This year’s Chamber Singers learned their parts via sheet music, rather than by rote repetition. “Last year we kind of composed and listened with our ears. We never really had sheet music in front of us. So it was a very different but positive experience,” said senior Chamber Singer Michelle Anjani, a soloist in “September.”

“In some ways it made it easier to learn the music quicker, but it made it harder to have everything memorized in time,” Anjani explained.

Redrico was brought onto the project just a week before rehearsals started. He used a computer to arrange the sounds for vocal performance. “I grew up playing piano, so I have voicings in my head and I put them into my arrangements. I write them out and I teach them to the singers. Simple as that,” Redrico explained.

Practices began right after students returned from winter break, occurring during class time and for an hour every day after school. In total, the Chamber Singers had 2 weeks (not counting finals week) to prepare for the showcase.

“You had to drink a lot of water and really know how to rest your voice, really conserve it, because [in] most of the songs we have to sing as loud as we can and the whole time. So it builds up strength and endurance, and you’ve gotta know how to save your voice,” said Anjani.

According to Roberts, the a capella showcase was intended to help recruit students for the choral program, brighten listeners’ days, and give Chamber Singers something different to sing. Roberts called it “a different approach to music, as we do mostly classical art music in the curriculum. So this is sort of a deviation for a short period of time when we put this show together.”

Roberts, Redrico, and Anjani all enjoyed the showcase.

“They’re super fun. My favorite is always going to the elementary schools, because the elementary school kids don’t have a filter,” said Roberts. The elementary school students sang and danced along with the songs, according to Roberts.

“And a lot of times there’s students who have matriculated from those elementary schools so their teachers see them, and that’s really exciting. It’s always so well received at the elementary schools. And it really is everyone’s favorite show – the students at the elementary schools love it and the high school students putting on the show love it,” Roberts added.

“Everybody was getting so into it. And it just makes me so happy to do what I love and have everyone else enjoying it too. It’s the best feeling in the world,” Anjani said. “My favorite song in the entire show had to be ‘September’. That was the most rhythmically difficult song in the entire set, especially in the learning and rehearsal process. But once we got it it felt so amazing and fun to sing.”

Redrico called it “one of the best experiences” in his career. “I’m studying music education at San Jose State University, and so this was a really good hands-on training experience for me. I got to arrange, I got to teach and pretty much be a music teacher for 2 weeks. So that was really fun,” he said.

“I think they did awesome. They surpassed my expectations and I came to every show because I enjoyed listening to them and I enjoyed working with them,” Redrico said. “I’m really proud of them. And I know that there’s some really great potential here and that these students are really talented and I wish them the best in their future careers in music or anything else they’re trying to pursue.”