Herricks students perform at Harmony For Peace Foundation concert

Herricks students perform at Harmony For Peace Foundation concert

The Herricks High School Chamber Orchestra and Choir gave a masterful performance in the Harmony for Peace Foundation International Holiday concert at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on Sunday afternoon, with the St. Aidan Celestial and Girls Choir and the St. Aidan Concert Handbell Choir.

The uplifting program had a distinctly Croatian flavor, featuring the Zvjezdice (“Little Stars”) Girls Choir of Croatia, who performed the Herricks Chamber Orchestra Strings in the opening segment of the concert. The ethereal harmonies of the Little Stars set the tone as they sang a Croatian song of the season a capella, standing on the Avery Fisher stage with a backdrop of blue with white stars.

The Herricks Chamber strings blended brilliantly with the Little Stars’ voice on Franz Schubert’s “Credo” and “Sanctus,” with the strings’ sharp attack helping to convey the emotion of the hymn. A trio of the Little Stars also performed a “Song of Peace,” which they had not performed since the years immediatly following the Serbian-Croatian conflict, according to Drago Bubalo, music director of St. Aidan, who had brought the disparate musical groups together for the holiday concert.

“It has been a long but logical way from the concert halls of Zagreb to this performance here today,” Bubalo said.

Bubalo had heard the Herricks Chamber Orchestra in concert in October and had recruited several of their players to accompany the St. Aidan choir in a recent performance. The Herricks orchestra had only a few weeks to prepare the music for Sunday’s concert, but they were clearly ready to perform under the direction of Bubalo, Robin Maddox, who directs the chamber orchestra at Herricks and – in one instance – by themselves without a conductor.

“They’ve been rehearsing relentlessly for this concert,” Bubalo told the audience, as he brought the entire ensemble on stage with their student concert master Camille Serrano. The orchestra delivered a crisp, energetic attack on Antonio Vivaldi’s “Winter” from his “Seasons” suite, and they were clearly confident in the absence of a conductor.

“That’s our signature,” said senior violist Jessica Lemons said about the group’s ability to perform while directing themselves.

Lemons, who was among the Herricks players who toured eastern Europe, said she was accustomed to playing in large venues, but added that playing in Avery Fisher Hall was something else again.

“This was cool. I’ve never played in this large a venue in this country,” she said.

Anthony Madonna, a member of both the Herricks orchestra and choir and had been on that same eastern European tour, said the experience was a memorable one.

“It was a long day. But it was a lot of fun,” Madonna said.

The orchestra visibly had fun performing Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” with Maddox conducting, which followed Vivaldi’s “Winter” and preceded a segment from Vivaldi’s “Magnificat” with the St. Aidan Choir rendering the vocal parts.

The South Shore Brass preceded that segment with a piece by Giovanni Gabrielli, with the horn players playing antiphonally from opposite sides of the concernt hall balcony. St. Aidan Concert Handbell Choir followed that segment with a performance of “Jubilee for Bells” under Bubalo’s direction.

Among the highlights of the concert was the Herricks Chamber Choir performing Samuel Barber’s “Sure on This Shining Night,” and Georg Friedrich Handel’s “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” from the “Messiah” with the Little Stars, members of the St. Aidan Choir and Klapa Astoria, a male Croatian ensemble.

Sophomore tenor Kevin Garcia, in his first year in the choir, said he was “a little nervous” at first, but those initial jitters passed quickly.

“I got into the music. That’s when I started feeling comfortable on stage,” Garcia said.

Junior soprano Rebecca Etessami said it was a challenge to learn some of the Croatian carols they sng with the Little Stars, but she was excited to have performed in Avery Fisher Hall.

“It was a long day, but it was really great. It’s such a great hall,” Etessami said.

A letter read from Ivo Josipovic, president of the Republic of Croatia, lauded “the noble idea of promoting peace through music,” by bringing people from diverse cultures together in performance.

The juxtaposition was perhaps most striking with the solo performance of “Silent Night” by St. Aidan’s youngest soloist, Sarah Hazleton, and the a capella performance of “Sidji k Nama Majko Nasa” (“Come Down to Us, oh Mother”) by the Klapa Astoria.

The entire ensemble joined in, with audience members invited to join in for the finale of “Joy to the World,” and the whirlwind of seasonal music from around the world was complete.

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