East Islip Middle School’s student-musicians proved the strength of their talents and the outstanding proficiency instilled by the district’s music program with two marvelous spring concerts, held back-to-back on May 30 and 31 in the high school’s auditorium.
Introductions from Principal Mark Bernard and East Islip Director of Music Stephen Guarino kicked off Concert I on May 30, leading into a strong performance by the East Islip Middle School 7/8 Band. Directed by Concetta Stevens, the ensemble played Richard Saucedo’s “American Barndance,” Brian Balmages’ multi-part “Elements (Petite Symphony)” and “Michael Jackson: Through the Years,” a fun medley of Jackson favorites (“I Want You Back,” “I’ll Be There,” “Rock with You,” “Thriller” and “Man in the Mirror”) arranged by Michael Brown and featuring saxophone soloist Frank Pepe. The band ended with a rendition of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Led by directors Patricia Bryan and Lisa Ashkenazy and accompanied by Jeremy Barbaro, the concert choir turn was next, singing “Corner of the Sky” by Stephen Schwartz (from “Pippin”), traditional spiritual “Rock-A My Soul,” Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie’s beatific “We Are the World” (with soloists Paul DeMasi and Megan Tohill) and Schwartz’s classic title tune to the musical “Godspell” (with soloists Chris Abbatepaulo, Catherine Graber and Noelia Vazquez). The choir and soloists Matt Alessi and Danielle Pafundi closed with two pieces celebrating the music of ‘70s rock titans Queen: “A Tribute to Queen” arranged by Marc Brymer and a version of the 1976 classic “Somebody to Love” arranged by Adam Anders and Tim Davis (“Glee”) .
The first concert came to an end with the East Islip Middle School 7/8 Orchestra, directed by Judith Fischer, performing four epic numbers: Mozart’s Overture to “Lucio Silla,” Klaus Badelt’s theme to the film “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” (featuring a cello solo by Karli Pipitone), Howard Shore’s “Jacob’s Theme” from the film “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” (with Juliana Cialdella on solo violin) and themes from Antonin Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.”
At Spring Concert II one night later, the program of musical excellence continued.
Directed by Christopher Robertson, the East Islip Middle School Sixth-Grade Band began strong with Jay Chattaway’s “Northwest Overture” before tackling John Kinyon’s “Episode for Band,” Michael Sweeney’s “Pantheon” and Henry Fillmore’s “Men of Ohio.”
After telling the assembled parents, “Your kids are a joy to teach,” Ashkenazy and her sixth-grade chorus (accompanied again by Barbero) dove into a program of compositions by classic American composers. A traditional spiritual, “Joshua (Fit the Battle of Jericho)” was first, followed by a happy rendition of Paul Simon’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” Irving Berlin’s “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” from “White Christmas” (with soloist Sara Rapuzzi) and the Kirby Shaw-arranged “What’d I Say (A Tribute to Ray Charles).”
Director Jacqueline Collins then led the sixth-grade orchestra onto the stage, offering a vivid performance of Richard Wagner’s “March of the Meistersingers,” Elliot del Borgo’s “Concertino in G,” Mark Williams’ “Fiddle Finger Frenzy,” Mozart’s “Contredanse en Rondeau” and Richard Meyer’s “Joust.”
The final place in the concert series was taken by the school’s girls chorus, directed by Bryan and accompanied by Barbaro. After exhorting the audience with “Rejoice and Sing!” (an African-American spiritual), the chorus and soloist Sabrina Firneno sang “Someone Like You” by Adele Adkins and Dan Wilson. Penultimate number “Over the Sea to Skye,” a traditional Scottish song, brought a Celtic flavor to the proceedings. The Middle School Spring Concert finale, sung with soloist Kendra Canavan, was a lovely rendition of the Amanda McBroom song “The Rose,” made famous by Bette Midler.