Annual BAD concert from student performers brings holiday cheer to all campuses

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Irina Malyugina

Members of the upper school all-male dance team Kinetic Krew perform during the annual BAD concert.

by Irina Malyugina and Alysa Suleiman

The luxuriously heavy crimson drapes slowly unfurl to the wings of the stage, revealing a vast ensemble of seated students, dressed in identical cream-gray sweatshirts, Santa hats or reindeer ears and facing the centerstage in a semicircle. Soft beams of indigo, gold and magenta diffuse across the stage, illuminating serene yet determined faces as the students grip violins, cellos, clarinets, even triangles in anticipation. Holding their breaths in hushed silence, audience members intently focus their eyes on the stage. 

Suddenly, a hand lifts, poised for a slight second in mid-air, then crashes down. Instantly, a thunderous boom echoes from the percussions, followed by the prompt upbeat melody of the harmonious violins, a mass of gleaming bows smoothly sliding up and down the strings in perfect symphony.

Last Friday, performing arts groups from the upper, middle and lower schools toured the three campuses last Friday for their annual holiday concert Big Assembly Day (BAD). 

Held in the Patil Theater of the RPAC, the upper school show was split into two runs, with freshmen and sophomores watching the performance during the first half of lunch and juniors and seniors watching during the second half. 

The concert began with Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Bells” by the upper school orchestra. 

Smiling in his Santa Claus hat, upper school music teacher Dr. Dave Hart led the 100-plus members of the ensemble through the start of the show, earning rounds of applause from cheering students and faculty.

Rishab Parthasarathy (10), a violinist in the orchestra, noted the importance placed on practice, amping up the amount as the show date rolled near since orchestra was the first performance of the show.

Alysa Suleiman
Violinists Gabriel Yang (11) and Arushi Nety (12) perform as a part of the opening set by the upper school orchestra. “I love how orchestra brings the instrumental aspect of music to BAD day, and I love performing with orchestra because it’s the biggest ensemble in the entire school,” said Rishab Parthasarathy (10).

“I love how orchestra brings the instrumental aspect of music to BAD day, and I love performing with orchestra because it feels great to be playing with the biggest ensemble in the entire upper school music community,” Rishab said. 

Following brief introductions by various members of the middle and upper school performing arts groups before each number, the middle school choral groups Dynamics, Harmonics and Vivace and dance groups Dance Fusion, Showstoppers and High Voltage, as well as the upper school choral groups Bel Canto, Camerata, Cantilena and Downbeat and dance groups Harker Dance Company and Kinetic Krew, performed their prepared pieces.

This year’s performance was the first for upper school freshman advisor and math teacher Alan Simpson-Vlach, and he was extremely impressed by the organization and talents that the Harker community exhibited, calling the students “truly great performers.” 

Although he had already watched the upper school orchestra perform with David Amran and attended the Choral Concert, Simpson-Vlach said that he was “impressed” to see how the middle and lower school groups held “just as high of a standard” of the performance aspect as the upper school did. 

“I think that anytime students have to get together and work together to make something happen, that’s something really important that builds community. When you have to be in the ensemble such as the orchestra to make [the music] sound right, it is, to me, a great metaphor of community,” Simpson-Vlach said. 

The motif of community also resonates with one of the newest members of the upper school boys’ dance team Kinetic Krew: B.B. Ajlouny (9) enjoys the “heartwarming” experience and all the “love and support” that BAD brings to the Harker community. 

BAD is important to me because it is a great way for us as performers to create some amazing memories throughout the years and the one time of year where all performing arts groups are given the opportunity to share their talents and holiday cheer with the entire Harker community.”

— B.B. Ajlouny (9)

“BAD is important to me because it is a great way for us as performers to create some amazing memories throughout the years and the one time of year where all performing arts groups are given the opportunity to share their talents and holiday cheer with the entire Harker community,” B.B. said.

Junior Alex Kumar, who performed “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” by Mabel Scott as a member of Downbeat, believes that BAD is a pivotal way of introducing the performing arts community to younger students.

“I think it’s important, especially for those of us in the high school choirs, we’re getting the lower schoolers and middle schoolers who might not yet be interested in [performing] and piquing their interest,” Alex said. “Some of them might be like ‘hey, that looks like a really fun group to be in’ and ‘maybe I should try out when I’m in high school,” and it’s just cool to think that we’re planting seeds like that for people.”

Henry Wiese (12), another member of Downbeat, recalled his own story of joining Harker performing arts. 

“I’ve been performing [in BAD] since middle school in seventh grade, so that’s like six years,” he said. “I definitely started doing performing arts when I first came to Harker just by watching BAD day as an audience member and thinking, “Huh. Maybe I could do that. Those guys look so cool.’” 

The final product on stage required the cooperation and flexibility of all the members. Alex recalls the complications and detailed “behind-the-scenes” discussions that went into selecting and planning each piece.

“There’s a lot of thinking behind the scenes that most people don’t see,” Alex said. “If we wanted to do a second piece, it gets technical because we have our directors, but we’re also all very in tune with our bodies and our voices and each others’ bodies and voices, so it’s really interesting when we all debate to see what fits each other’s capabilities best and how safe we’re being musically.” 

Cantilena singer Anjali Sheth (12) also pointed out the difficulties in sounding harmonious with a larger group while performing their song “Silent Meditation,”an arrangement by upper school music teacher Susan Nace of “Silent Night” by Franz Gruber, but was happy to have ended their last performance of the day on a happy note with the lower school students.

“I absolutely love going around and singing for all the campuses, especially in the very end at Bucknall when we’re with the younger kids, and some of us get to go down and dance with them,” Anjali said.

In the end, audience members from faculty and students alike appreciated the annual tradition and its holiday cheer. Amidst preparation for the upcoming final exams, Angela Jia (10) was thankful for the stress alleviation and excitement that BAD brought.

“I was really looking forward to BAD day because it really puts us in that holiday spirit, and it makes me feel happy that I’ve been watching [the show] since lower school,” Angela said. “The little kids were especially cute, and everyone did so well, so the entire show was really impressive.”

Freshman Jasleen Hansra has also been watching the shows since kindergarten and admires the constant performance aspect that the groups bring.

“I feel like at Harker, BAD is what starts off the holidays and brings everyone from all three schools closer together,” she said.

Upcoming Harker performing arts shows include the Student-Directed Showcase on Jan. 10 and 11 and the upper school dance performance on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.