On 20 May 2016, Belmont Hill had its annual Spring Concert, marking the end of a great season of organized music on the Hill. Starting at 7pm, the major vocal and instrumental groups of Belmont Hill convened in Hamilton Chapel, with the Troubadours and the B-flats starting the night off. The vocalists sang “Cantante” by G. Pitoni, “Lirium” by R. Mantovano, and “Elijah Rock” as arranged by Jester Hairston. Once again, this select group of vocalists represented the cream of the crop in Belmont Hill’s vocal music program, impressed the audience, and set the bar high for the rest of the night.
Following the Troubadours and the B-flats came the Middle School Jazz Ensemble supplemented by Scott Jackson on drums, Juan Carlos Fernandez del Castillo on bass, and Armin Thomas on piano. The band played Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” with Jacob Welborn soloing on trumpet; they continued to uphold the excellent quality of the music played at the Spring Concert and did not disappoint. One jazz band was followed by another, with the Upper School Jazz Ensemble, the school’s premier jazz group, playing Charles Mingus’s “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”, and Miles Davis’s “Solar”. Soloists for both tunes included Ethan McIlhenny on tenor, Marshall Knight on alto, and Scott Jackson on drums. The power and blood demonstrated in the band’s playing indicated that the jazz program at Belmont Hill will be very strong in the near future.
After the jazz groups performed, the senior acapella group, the A Cafellas, who sang Crosby, Stills and Noah’s “Southern Cross,” took the stage. This group of seniors showcased their dedication to the art of acapella in DJ Demetri’s florid solo as well as the powerful backup vocals provided by the rest of the group. The audience was duly impressed, and as the post-song applause died down the A Cafellas left the stage and made way for another group known for its individuality: the Jazz Combo.
The Jazz Combo, noted for their suave looks in their crisp khakis and red ties, began their set with “Nostalgia in Times Square.” One key component of the Jazz Combo experience is egalitarianism expressed through the even distribution of solos, and every member of the Combo had a solo, including rookie trombonist Matt Armstrong. “Nostalgia” pleased the audience, and subsequently in a deviation from the program Combo President David Yellen announced an encore, the Combo classic “Work Song” by Nat Adderley. “Work Song” was played for the sixth time in the last nine concerts, and was a final tribute to the long-standing commitments made by the Combo’s veteran members who all had important solos. When the final F minor chord filled the chapel, raucous applause filled the air as the seniors in the Combo took a bow for the last time.
Once the Combo left the stage, the largest instrumental ensemble on campus, the Orchestra, walked up the stairs and settled down. The Orchestra led by Mr. Fiori, in a sudden change of tradition, played Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, which left the audience delighted. The Orchestra was supplemented by Scott Jackson on drums, who was prominently featured in almost every act in the show; this led to his earning the nickname “Scott the Tireless”. Following “Kashmir”, the Orchestra played an arrangement by Armin Thomas. However, unlike previous instances of playing student arrangements, what transpired in the Chapel that night was unprecedented. Armin Thomas himself took the baton and conducted the Orchestra and the B-flats with soloist Theo Why, drummer Scott Jackson, and clarinetist Abe Tolkoff in a condensed version of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. “Beethoven all those years ago in 1824 wrote ‘all men become brothers’, and here tonight all of us, the Orchestra, the B-flats, become brothers in making great music”, said Thomas. The starting cue led the cellos to take the opening Ode to Joy theme, slowly crescendoing into a huge festivity of joy and universal brotherhood that became the highlight of the night. Baritone soloist Theo Why perfected the pronunciation of Schiller’s German text used in the symphony, and the chorus of singers on the balcony contributed to the wonderful atmosphere of the piece. Many people afterward described the performance as “electric”, and “deeply moving”, with one saying that “I should hope that this performance will be remembered at Belmont Hill for a very long time.” After the orchestra finished performing the Beethoven and took bows to a standing ovation, they left the stage and made way for the final act of the night: the B-flats.
The B-flats performed five songs to end the night; these were “Imagine” by Nico and Vinz, Billy Joel’s “She’s Got A Way”, Kenny Edmonds’s “We’ve Got Love”, “Remedy” by the Zac Brown Band supplemented by Austin Kwoun on violin, and then “Total Praise” by Richard Smallwood. These songs rounded off a great night of music from all the performers and afterwards in the plaza outside the chapel people remarked on the high standard of music set by the players and singers at Belmont Hill. People began to leave, satisfied with an hour and a half of excellent music.
This concert also marked the last time many seniors would play in their respective groups. In the vocal groups, (Troubadours, B Flats, and A Cafellas), these were Brendan Pulsifer, Alex Afeyan, Ranjit Thomas, Christian Dolan, Harrison Rohrer, Chip Daley, Chad Meyers, Thomas Wolpow, Vishnu Nair, DJ Demetri, and Alessandro Zenati. In the Upper School Jazz Ensemble tenor saxophonist Ethan McIlhenny and pianist/bassist Juan Carlos Fernandez del Castillo took their last bow on the 20th. The Jazz Combo, made up of almost all seniors, said goodbye to trombonist Matt Armstrong, pianist/bassist Juan Carlos Fernandez del Castillo, pianist Lucas Jurgensen, guitarist Sean Rayment, saxophonists Jack Richards, David Yellen, and Will Weiter. Finally, the Orchestra bid a farewell on that Friday night to Ricky Cronin, Parker Hall, Didier Lucceus, Spencer Kim, and George Hu. All of these musicians had a tremendous role in Friday’s concert and in Belmont Hill’s music program at large.
The Spring Concert marked the end of a great year, one that some argue that it is the best musical year in the school’s history. With the departure of so many great talented musicians in the senior class, an age is ending in the history of BH music and a new one will begin in the fall.