by John Stradley, Moderator, The Present Dei
Verbum Dei choirs “The Blue Notes,” “The Golden Keys,” and soloists set the Christmas season to a melodic and harmonic start Friday evening, December 2 before an audience of nearly 200. “Christmas at the Verb 2011,” the first-ever Christmas concert at VDHS was a delight, featuring strong vocal performances, a tight rhythm section, comedy, and even a sing-along of holiday favorites.
In spite of the fact that this was an inaugural event, the harmonies and choreography throughout the evening gave the impression that the participants were veteran performers; the voices were strong and bold, stage presence was not affected, and a good natured, non-pretentious confidence pervaded the concert. These qualities were most apparent in the performances of the soloists. Darrin Cottrell, Jesus Real, Reynaldo Cartagena, and Ellis Smith, whose solo during the finale was both powerful and moving, were at ease before the microphone, connecting with the audience with ease, grace, and, occasionally, with humor.
Director EJ Vierya, who accompanied many soloists on electric piano, assembled an eclectic blend of songs for the concert which included a number of traditional carols and popular pieces, seasoned with an original composition and “Betelehemu,” a Nigerian Christmas song.
Showcasing the senior’s vocal and instrumental talent, Cartagena’s “No More Love Songs” provided a holiday-tinged respite from the seasonal music and featured a rap bridge. Junior Christian Rubi, the percussionist of the accompanying trio, provided jazzy and rocking backbeats on several numbers and a Latin beat with the cajon on others. Senior Ashton Patt’s soulful “This Christmas” featured Cartagena on a restrained yet engaging electric-acoustic guitar solo. Academic Dean George Favell accompanied the combined choirs on electric piano for a soaring rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Vocalists sported black slacks and jackets accented by festive red ties while a lone Christmas tree provided ambiance. As strong as this performance was in all respects, further attention to stage dressing would have contributed to the holiday atmosphere. Admittedly, maintaining the fine balance between setting and performance is a challenge, but emphasis at this first concert was, perhaps intentionally, placed squarely on performance.
Commenting on the success of the performance, director Vieyra alluded to the possibility of a spring concert. With the strength and style of this performance still fresh in the memory, there is much melody and harmony lingering in the air to heighten the anticipation. Come spring!