Bel Canto, Camerata, Cantilena, Downbeat dazzle in Peace, Hope, Love concert


Sally Zhu

Members of Bel Canto perform at a dress rehearsal for the Choirs In Concert. The concert, themed Peace, Hope, Love, took place in the Patil Theater on April 21.

by Ella Yee, Co-Asst. Multimedia Editor

A song inspired by South African melodies, another dedicated to the war in Ukraine and a melody accompanied on the erhu, a Chinese stringed instrument. Members of upper school choirs Bel Canto, Camerata, Cantilena and Downbeat performed these pieces and more in “Choirs In Concert: Peace, Hope, Love,” which took place in the Patil Theater on April 21.

As the upper school’s indoor mask mandate lifted on the Monday before the concert, students sang without masks for the first time this year.

“Our preparation has been different all year because of masks,” upper school choir director Jennifer Sandusky said. “With all the work with the masks on, when we took them off, we were singing pretty well because we had been forced to really use our ears and develop breath control and support in a more nuanced way.”

Bel Canto opened the concert with “Bringers of Noise,” featuring a short oration, and “South African Suite,” influenced by elements of South African folk songs.

“We had some pretty interesting pieces prepared for this concert,” Sriram Bhimaraju (10), a member of Bel Canto, said. “Both of them were not in English, and one of them was very mysterious…[because] it was in gibberish. It was really fun because it was a new experience.”

Next, Camerata serenaded the theater with “Locus Iste” and “Royals.” Isabella Ribeiro (10), a member of the group, noted how “Royals” challenged Camerata members to add an element of dance to their performance.

“‘Royals’ by Lorde was actually something different than we normally do,” Isabella said. “Instead of just standing in formation and singing it, we moved around a bit. We wanted to do something new for the spring concert, so that was really fun to try out. It was a little bit more stressful to prepare, but it paid off in the end.”

The rosters for this year’s upper school choirs. The choirs, Bel Canto, Camerata, Cantilena and Downbeat, performed at Choirs In Concert on April 21. (Provided by Susan Nace)

All-female choir Cantilena then performed a vast repertoire of songs, beginning with “Prayer for Ukraine,” which was followed by “Caritas Abundat,” “With Flowers Blooming,” “Flare,” “Evening of Roses” and “How Can I Keep from Singing,” deemed the choir’s theme song. Erica Cai (12) accompanied the singers on the traditional Chinese instrument, the erhu, for “With Flowers Blooming,” after upper school choir director Susan Nace encouraged her to have a shared moment on stage with her twin sister Teresa Cai (12), a member of Cantilena.

“I love Ms. Nace for thinking of me and for valuing mine and my sister’s musical bond,” Erica said. “I was really grateful that she reached out to me with this opportunity because I think without it, I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to perform erhu in front of the school community at all. Looking back, this is probably going to be one of my favorite memories from senior year.”

After Cantilena finished their pieces, Bel Canto, Camerata and Downbeat joined them for a rendition of “Omnia Sol.” Downbeat then stayed on stage to close out the concert with “Walking on Sunshine,” “Landslide” and “All for Us.” 

“There’s a part of ‘All for Us’ that we like to call the wall of sound,” Richie Amarillas (12), a member of Downbeat, said. “That moment was just so powerful because we perfected the part of the song that was probably one of the hardest parts. I’ve been listening to it through the video recording these last few days, and I’m just like, ‘Wow, we did that.’”

Before the end of the night, Nace, Sandusky and Director of Performing Arts Laura Lang-Ree gave short speeches to honor seniors Richie, Teresa Cai, Josh Field, Anoushka Khatri, Callie Mayer, Anya Warrier, Daniel Wu and Melody Yazdi. At the conclusion of the speeches, the younger choir members, who had previously been standing on risers, rushed down to embrace the graduating class.

“It was a bittersweet moment,” Richie said. “It was a moment for me to realize how much I’ve accomplished with the Conservatory. I’m happy that I was able to experience all the memories that I’ve experienced with the people who I have experienced them with.”