Spring Band Concert 2019

Symphonic Band playing their first piece, Exaltation.

Symphonic Band playing their first piece, Exaltation.

SWHS’s 2019 spring band concert took place at South Windsor High School on Wednesday, May 8th, at 6:30 pm. The two bands that performed at the concert were Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble, who were the main events of the show. However, the concert ended with Wind Ensemble, Choral Spectrum, Treble Choir, and Chamber Orchestra performing their rendition of ‘Star Wars: Duel of the Fates.’ Although this performance was long awaited and very exciting, let’s start at the very beginning.

Symphonic Band was the first of the two bands to take the stage. Once all seventy-one students in the group were seated, the concert began. Symphonic Band started off the concert by playing a song called ‘Exaltation’. This song started off very upbeat, slowed down in the middle, and went back to the starting tempo at the end. During the slow part of the song, Sophomore, Ryan Dunia was a featured soloist. His alto saxophone solo sounded pretty good and the whole band blended together nicely. No one was specifically standing out and it sounded really nice overall. When the song sped up again the group continued to stay together and ended on a good note. As soon as this song ended, the audience clapped and Mr. Verrastro stepped off of the podium to give a speech to the audience.

At this time he explained why he chose ‘Companion of My Voice’ as the next song for Symphonic Band to play. He chose this song because it was written for a band that had lost a bass clarinet player. This same thing happened to Symphonic Band in 2017 with Ali Pahore. Pahore played the bass clarinet in symphonic band and lost his battle to leukemia. To Verrastro, this song was a great way to remember and honor Pahore. Once he finished explaining all of this, he continued on with the program and the group started the song. It opened with a bass clarinet solo by Luke Drouin and continued with other instruments flourishing out of his sound. The slow but beautiful song went on and there were many other soloists that made appearances. Trumpet player, Rebekah Jacobs, french horn player, Ari Cohen, oboist, Darian Styles, and flute player, Julia Ghagare all had solos in this piece. When the song ended, Verrastro named all of the graduating seniors in Symphonic Band and all of them stood up. Next was time for the seniors’ annual speech and gift’s.

Every year at the spring band concert, the seniors in each group come together and get Verrastro a gift or two to thank him for everything that he has done for them in the past four years. This year, senior, Ari Cohen, gave a speech about Verrastro and how much he has impacted all of the seniors’ lives. Once she finished, the seniors gave him the gifts. The first gift that Verrastro received was a bubble wand from Disney. They had explained that they got it for him simply because he had said that he wanted one when they were on the Disney Trip last spring. The next gift was a sarcasm button, where Verrastro could record himself saying something and then play it over again. Lastly, they gave him the only thing that was fitting for that night, a lightsaber baton for him to use when he conducts star wars. After the last gift was given, Verrastro hugged all of the seniors and they all went back to their seats for their last song, Incredibles 2.

The piece included multiple songs from the new Incredibles movies and was very upbeat. It had many people in the audience bopping their heads as most of them were familiar with the movie. Not only this, but there was even a solo in this piece as well. Junior, Jianna Mitchell, who plays the Baritone Saxophone had a solo. Overall, Symphonic band did a good job with this song and it was a great way to end their program.

After Symphonic Band concluded their portion of the concert, Wind Ensemble took the stage to perform. The first arrangement they played was a rather beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, which has a “special place in [Verrastro’s] heart” and was dedicated to all the moms in the audience. It featured several moving parts throughout and had one heck of an Alto Saxophone solo by senior, Kyle Polito. He wasn’t the only solo, however. There were brief solos throughout the piece that cascaded with Polito’s solo, including tidbits by Senior, Grace Helmke, and Junior, Veena Bellum. After the song had concluded, Verrastro took the time to introduce the graduating seniors who were playing their last high school concert.

Per usual, senior, Gary Brownbill, took to the mic to give a brief speech about being in the band and Mr. Verrastro himself as a final send-off. But, they weren’t done there. On top of that, the seniors gave out their gifts, one of which was a large ‘V’ that was signed by the senior class in Wind Ensemble. Another gift that the seniors got Verrastro was a red t-shirt that simply said ‘My Students Made Me This’ in black marker. Lastly, the Wind Ensemble seniors gifted Verrastro with his own official Band Ball set, with two huge buckets and a ‘band ball’ that is simply made out of tape. After the gifts and an additional speech by fellow senior, Shamik Soni, the rest of Wind Ensemble wrapped up their crazy year with more crazy in the form of the piece titled ‘Pulse.’

At a whopping 160bpm, this piece showcased the band’s ability to watch and stay together. If one person failed to do so, the piece could easily fall apart. When the piece concluded, the band was met with thunderous applause from the crowd. Overall, Then, after some comments by Verrastro, the main event was about to begin, Star Wars.

All of the groups set up for Star Wars.

It had been on posters everywhere in the school, available for the other students to see. Wind Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, Treble Choir, and Choral Spectrum came together on stage as the screen lowered and the projector fired up. With Verrastro donning a Darth Vader cape and the iconic mask (almost the mask, definitely the cape), the screenplay began with a brief intro leading into ‘The Phantom Menace.’ As the movie montage played, the combined superband started playing. All the parts came together and all the hard work paid off in the end.  Many people in the audience were blown away by the performance and the superband was met with a stunned silence after the screen went black. The band nearly finished at the same time as the movie did. Verrastro’s sharp exhale broke the rather awkward silence, signifying that the band was done and the group was then met with a standing ovation by everyone in the auditorium.

After the concert ended, Verrastro was asked how he thought the concert went and how what his thoughts were of all the groups. His response being:

“Symphonic band played better than they have played all year, if they had done that at Six Flags then they would have gotten superior.”

“Wind Ensemble had some little weird stuff here and there, but nothing major. Most of that was just being up and down.”

“Martineau says that it was fine. As far as little things, he thinks that Wind Ensemble was holding back a little bit… He said, ‘Either the chorus was really loud or the band was holding back.’”

Overall, the concert was a success and you could say that all of the groups enjoyed playing their last concert of the year. You can see the SWHS bands march and play in the Memorial Day Parade on May 27th right here in town, and as well as Wind Ensemble plays at graduation on June 17th.