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  • Writer's pictureCarla DeFord

No Fireworks? No Problem!

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

Do you miss the fireworks that used to happen on Town Night? For a similar experience, come to the Arlington High School (AHS) Town Day concert because when the jazz band launches into their signature opening number, “The Chicken,” there’ll be plenty of explosive sound. As baritone sax player and vocalist junior Franco D'Agostino noted, “’The Chicken’ will always be my favorite because I’ve been hearing it since I was three years old.” The son of Sabato (“Tino”) D’Agostino, AHS director of both the jazz band and instrumental music, Franco was familiar with the repertoire of the band long before he before he joined the ensemble as a freshman.

All in the family: Franco D'Agostino on baritone sax and Tino D'Agostino conducting the AHS Jazz Band in "The Chicken" (by Pee Wee Ellis)

Also on the program is “Misty” (by Erroll Garner with lyrics by Johnny Burke), a song made famous by Johnny Mathis, featuring vocalist senior Sam Harris.

"Look at me. I'm as helpless as a kitten up a tree." Sam Harris sings "Misty."

Additional numbers include “A Night in Tunisia” (by Dizzy Gillespie), "Buckjump" (by Trombone Shorty), and “Sway” (by Luis Demetrio) with vocal soloist junior Chandler Betts, a member of the AHS Madrigal Singers.

Singer Chandler Betts feels the Latin beat in "Sway."

The rousing modern gospel number “Revelation is Here” (by Lorraine Perry and Russell Ferrante) features vocals by Franco D’Agostino, who noted, "I like this song because it's about finding yourself through religion and spirituality."

Franco D'Agostino and the AHS Madrigal Singers take the audience to church in "Revelation is Here."

New to the band is sophomore trumpet player Owen Roth, who participated in the 2018 Bejazzled concert as a member of the Ottoson Middle School Jazz Band. (Bejazzled is the AHS biennial full-evening jazz concert that will be held again in June this year.) He noted that preparing for the performance on Town Day with only two weeks of rehearsal was challenging, but he seemed to think the extra effort was worth it. “The jazz band is a fun group, and it’s a cool experience to be part of it. I’m becoming a better musician because of the frequent practices,” Roth noted.

Thomas Gregory, trumpet soloist, and Mark Travassos, tenor sax soloist, in "A Night in Tunisia"

Performing on the main stage will also be the AHS Madrigal Singers, conducted by brand-new AHS choral director Mara Walker, who comes to Arlington after six years as choral director at Freedom High School in Morganton, North Carolina. The AHS ensemble of 29 singers has 16 new members, and she met them all for the first time only a couple of weeks ago.

Mara Walker and the AHS Madrigal Singers

Walker noted, “The students and I had to move quickly past introductions and get on to rehearsing. With a fast pace and lots of enthusiasm, the students learned the pitches and rhythms and then worked on memorization and polishing their sound. I am very proud of their accomplishments so far and am looking forward to the rest of the year.”

The AHS Madrigal Singers repertoire for Town Day includes “Emerald Stream” (by Seth Houston), based on the New England shape-note music tradition; “Ukuthula, a traditional Zulu South African peace hymn; and “Modimo” (by Michael Barrett) a South African song of celebration. They’re also collaborating with the jazz band on “Revelation is Here” in addition to supplying the solo vocalist for “Sway.”

Soloist Violet de Besche in "Ukuthula"

Sophomore Dylan Scopetski, who sings tenor, is a new member of the madrigal singers. He said his favorite piece on the program is “Emerald Stream" noting that it "was not easy to learn in a week’s time, but it is a beautiful arrangement and has a really fun, high tenor part that I enjoy singing.” For him the best part of the Town Day concert will be “singing our hearts out in front of such a large audience, especially when we do “Revelation is Here” with the jazz band; it’s so upbeat and exciting for all involved.”

Senior Eileen Tucci sings alto; she is in her third year as a madrigal singer and noted that the Town Day concert is enjoyable because “you’re able to sing for all your friends who don’t necessarily come to formal concerts.” On the other hand, she said, it’s a challenge to sing outdoors because “you have to get used to your voice sounding different.” Tucci, who has her sights set on veterinary school and is considering majoring in music as an undergrad, said she loves “the sense of community you experience in a choir. I intend to sing throughout my whole life in some capacity!”

Madrigal singer Eileen Tucci is in the second row, fifth from the right; Dylan Scopetski is in the second row, center.

About the jazz band, its director observed, “We have 11 new members this year, and they had to be rapidly integrated into the group. In rehearsal I’ve told the ensemble that if we don’t keep up our energy and consistency, we’ll sound just like any other band. In fact, I’ve found that my students always rise to the occasion. Because of their commitment and work ethic, the multiple award-winning AHS Jazz Band has a special, intense sound that’s fueled by the professionalism of its young members. When they’re onstage, they bring the fireworks. That’s what makes their performances memorable and keeps our audiences engaged.”

Grand finale: "When the Saints Go Marching In"

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