PHS Choir embraces challenge of Cabaret Night’s array of genres

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photo by Annie Kim

From the French opera L’Enfant et les Sortilèges in October to the traditional choral music from December’s winter concert, PHS Choir has already performed a diverse range of music and will shift to another genre with the PHS annual Cabaret Night.

For this concert, the choir will be tackling a tribute to Prince, songs from Dolly Parton, selections from the opera Aida and the musical Fame, a country set, and pieces from jazz singer Nina Simone.     

Princeton’s Cabaret Night originally started as a small concert for the school’s Chamber Choir, but it has since evolved to feature the entire PHS Choir, as well as many soloists. “We actually used to have it on the stage—the audience would sit on the stage of the PAC,” Pelletier said.

As to why the concert was broadened to include the entire PHS Choir, Pelletier said that they wanted to give everyone a chance to participate. “We decided it would be a nice final project for the whole choir,” she said.

The larger the concert has gotten, the more challenges the choir faces in preparing. “It’s a challenge to just come up with the program,” Pelletier said.

With the number of people auditioning for soloist parts and trying to give people solos that fit with their voice, the choir directors had their work cut out for them. “We really try to feature everybody with a solo or a duet or a trio,” Pelletier said. “Just coming up with pieces that will fit everybody’s voices and also make a really good program [is challenging],” she added.

Students performing face additional complications while preparing as well. Allison Spann ’16 talked about how this concert differs from others throughout the year because of the array of genres and time periods in one night. “You range all the way from the 40s with jazz to present-day artists,” Spann said.

Furthermore, the constant switching of performance type provides added difficulty. “We’ve done musical theatre numbers, we’ve done some R&B, Dolly Parton, and we’ve done country,” said Kate Li ’18, a member of PHS Choir.

PHS Choir member Michael Meyer ’18, however, looks forward to the change in music, even if difficult, because it provides an opportunity to try out different kinds of songs. “As a performer, I like them both—I think that it’s a good thing to do after spending a whole year doing choral songs,” Meyer said.

The concert is more of a visual performance than the average choir performance. Nicolette Garthe ’16 is singing “Easy as Life” this year from the opera Aida and adds more of a performance aspect to the songs for Cabaret Night. “I like to get into character and definitely perform it as if I was in the musical … and feel the same emotions that that character’s feeling,” Garthe said.

For Spann, the challenge has more to do with getting into character than switching up genres. “Normally for me, I draw musically off of what the meaning of the song is so the lyrics are always very, very important to me and I try to internalize how the song applies to me,” she said.

Spann is singing “My Strongest Suit” from Aida and had trouble connecting to the vapid character in the musical. “She is basically saying throughout the song, forget the inner me, absorb the outer and what I wear and how I dress,” Spann said. “But I think there is a lot to be said about how you carry yourself and what you wear and how you present yourself is a reflection of the interior.”

Overall, the show will have plenty of recognizable songs. “It’s like going to a concert. As a listener going to a choral concert, it might not be as interesting because it might get a little slow, but for Cabaret night with classic rock and pop music from your friends, it’s really fun,” Meyer said.

The performance is at the PAC on June 11 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults.

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