PHS Choir and Orchestra: a winter concert collaboration

photo by Leda Wang

In its 72nd year, the annual PHS winter concert proves that the combination between old traditions and innovation can lead to a whole new experience. The concert will feature the half hour work for orchestra and chorus Lux Aeterna by Morten Lauridsen, the first such collaboration between the PHS Orchestra and Choir at the winter concert in many years.

This joint effort is the first installment of a larger vision of cooperation from the PHS music department, as described by Vincent Metallo, PHS Choir Director.

“This year, we’re trying to collaborate with every group. So for instance, the choir and the orchestra collaborating for the winter concert… the choir and [members of] the studio band are going to collaborate for the gospel festival in February… it’s all about trying new collaborations.”

Sarah Pelletier, the Associate PHS Choir Director, looks forward to hearing what the partnership with PHS Orchestra will bring to the table. She predicts that, with the orchestra’s contributions to the winter concert, choir members will be able to experience something new that will make them more well-rounded vocalists.

“Usually we sing either with piano [or] a capella, so with the addition of … the orchestra, there’ll be so many more colors that [are] brought into the music-making … Just a real foundation of sound for the choral voices to blend with.”

The hope is for the choir students to gain meaningful insight into the nature of their music through this cooperative effort, and all the similarly partnered projects to come.

“It teaches ensemble singing in a different way … collaborating with an orchestra [demonstrates how] the more forces you put together, the more challenging it is, so this gives them a real appreciation for something of this caliber,” said Metallo. Layered on top of this is the music itself, a difficult piece for even a professional choir.

“The music itself is quite challenging, which is why we’ve all been rehearsing it separately [in the hopes] that everyone will know their part so well that when we come together it will be as easy a process as possible, putting it together … There’s a lot of give and take in the music … it’s not completely metrical, so there’ll be a lot of room for expansion and taking time, and I think those are the things that will need to be worked out,” said Pelletier.

However, due to the unique acoustics of the concert venue, she believes that finding the right blend between the two groups will have to wait until the choir and the orchestra first practice at the chapel. Therefor, three full days of rehearsal have been set aside for putting the piece together in-person.

“For the pieces in general… there are certain intervals or chords that [are] really hard to sing and to get the correct pitch… so that’s what has been difficult in a way. But so far we [haven’t] arrived at a situation where without the orchestra we can’t rehearse,” Jingyi Zhang ‘19, a PHS choir member stated in describing her experience during the past few rehearsals.

The choir students maintain a positive outlook towards the winter concert performance with the PHS Orchestra, agreeing that the experience will forge them into a more cohesive ensemble.

“I think [the collaboration] is going to be pretty good. We’re going to have to learn how to work together more and be louder as a group… to improve ourselves,” stated Lily Marianik ‘19, another PHS choir member.

When asked about whether joint pieces at the winter concert would occur in the future, Metallo stated that the possibility of something like this occurring every year would be unlikely.

“[It’s] probably not possible to be every year, but we hope to continue this and set a new tradition.”

The PHS Winter Concert is on December 21st at 7:30 PM in the Princeton University Chapel. Tickets are free for both adults and students.

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