SPUSD Celebrates Holiday with Performing Arts

Marengo Elementary School students lifted their collective voices during the school’s celebration of the holidays. Photo by Henk Friezer

Holiday cheer was high as students across SPUSD got into the holiday spirit by showcasing their many talents during annual artistic and musical performances throughout the month of December. 

South Pasadena High School kicked off the festivities with the Winter Dance on Dec. 6 and 7 at the school. The show consisted of two acts and displayed a variety of dance styles including modern, ballet, tap, hula, hip hop, jazz and color guard. The first act was entitled “Perspective,” consisting of six pieces choreographed by dance director Courtney Cheyne. The choreography was designed to guide the audience through a narrative of finding truth among thoughts projected upon the self and others, according to Cheyne.

“The performance explores the potential of people recognizing a problem, considering solutions together, and collectively producing change through the expansion of one small idea,” Cheyne shared with The Review.  

Act two consisted of student choreography, guest artists, color guard, and the SPHS Tiger Marching Band.

“Dance III had a choreography assignment this year and I was completely blown away by their hard work and creativity and felt they deserved to put their artistry into the show for everyone to enjoy,” said Cheyne. “I am beyond proud.”

On Dec. 12, the South Pasadena Middle School choir joined forces with the SPHS choir to present a holiday concert at the middle school auditorium.

Lia Donovan-Jones, director of the SPMS Advanced Choir, SPMS Beginning Choir as well as SPHS’s Arroyo Seco Ensemble and Oneonta Choir, said the concert showcased all vocal ensembles and soloists from SPMS and SPHS.
“We have always been fortunate to have an incredibly supportive community that shows up to see all of the hard work that our students put in,” Donovan-Jones shared.

The SPMS Beginning Choir performed “Goliath,” “You’ll Be In My Heart,” and the Ghana traditional “Sansa Kroma.” The SPMS Advanced Choir featured “Sing For Joy” by Handel, a solo on Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity” by student Gabby Hernandez, a jazz piece “Lullaby of Birdland,” a solo on “Verdrai, Carino” from the opera Don Giovanni composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and performed by student Chloe Backhaus, and the Cuban folk song “Son De Camaguey.”

The same night, the SPHS Glee Club performed for the first time, highlighting “Team” by Lorde and “Chain of Fools,” written by Don Covay and made famous by Aretha Franklin.

In addition, the SPHS Arroyo Seco Ensemble performed the Serbian folk song “Niska Banja,” “Take Me Home” by a Capella group Pentatonix, a solo by student Rachel Park on Samuel Barber’s “Sure on This Shining Night” and a solo self-written by student Amanda Estevez entitled “I’m Not Hungry Anymore.”

To cap off the resplendent evening of song, the SPMS and SPHS groups came together for a final performance of “The Greatest Show,” choreographed by Alison Smith. 

On Dec. 13, the SPHS band holiday concert featured the Concert Nand performing “Festivo for Symphonic Band” by Vacalv Nelhybel. The Symphonic Band performed “Landscapes” by Rossano Galantel, “Autumn On White Lake” by Samuel R. Hazo and “Flat Out and Wide Open” by Barry E. Kopetz. The Jazz Band performed “Moten Swing” arranged by Sammy Netisco, “Solid Old Man” by Duke Ellington, “Whisper Not” by Benny Golson, “This Christmas” arranged by John Berry and “Things Ain’t What They Use To Be” arraigned by David Mills.

On Dec. 14, SPHS held their annual Winter Assembly pep rally and song performances, featuring skits, videos, choir, jazz band and orchestra performances. Activities director Casey Shotwell said the excitement was high as students looked forward to the close of the semester.

“A lot of this is just celebrating that the first semester is coming to a close and it’s time to take a break and spend that with family and friends,” said Shotwell.

On Dec. 17, the fifth grade bands of Marengo Elementary School, Arroyo Vista Elementary School and Monterey Hills Elementary School strutted their musical stuff with the South Pasadena tradition of performing “Jingle Jolly.” Director Sarah Martin said it’s the first song that fifth grade band students in South Pasadena have learned for generations. 

“These students have been playing for just over 3 months and have already come so far,” said Martin.

Martin, also director of the band at SPMS, shared that on December 18 parents were treated to popular Christmas tunes including “Ding Dong Merrily On High,” “Up On The Housetop,” “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,” “Jingle Bells” and more. In keeping with tradition, the Advanced Band represented Hanukkah with an original piece for band entitled “Dreidl Adventure.” Attendees enjoyed the beautiful ballads and exciting overtures that represented different world cultures. As a special treat, the Advanced Band also performed from memorization within the auditorium aisles the chorale “Salvation is Created.”

On Dec. 19, TK through second grade at Monterey Hills Elementary delivered their winter holiday performance with third through fifth grade performing Dec. 20 at the school’s auditorium. A variety of holiday songs were performed with upper grade students giving presentations alongside the songs. Monterey Hills Secretary Chris Rudloff said the students were very excited about the showcase and that as a dual immersion school, some of the songs were in Spanish.

“Oh they love it,” said Rudloff.

On Dec. 19, the SPHS holiday orchestra got into the spirit with performances by two groups: the Beginning/Intermediate and the Advanced Orchestra, according to director Ashley Diggs. The beginning/intermediate group performed simple straightforward songs and finished with the song “It’s Holiday Time.” The advanced group performed classical pieces including “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3” and “Gymnopédie No. 1,” composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as “Carol of the Bells,” “Hanukkah Habanera” and “Christmas Festival.”

“The students work very hard and are usually excited to perform for their friends and family,” said Diggs. “The parents are usually proud and impressed at the hard work and caliber of our performances.”

To wrap up the season for SPUSD performances, Marengo Elementary School displayed their holiday cheer on Dec. 20 with each class singing two seasonal songs with many displaying fun props and cute costumes.

“They love it and the parents love it, and it’s just the happiest little auditorium ever,” said second grade teacher Holly Lang. “When the kids’ faces light up, the parents’ faces light up.”