Dunellen Choir Commemorates Holiday Season; Madrigals Play Integral Role By Angelo Facciponti-Mennella

The Dunellen High School choir, led by choral director Phyllis Piano, livened up this past winter season with a few organized events around our neighborhood. In particular, the madrigals performed Christmas carols around town to raise holiday spirits.

On December 15th, 2016, Dunellen’s team of Madrigals stepped out of school to travel around Dunellen, stopping at various businesses, consisting of Dunellen Hotel, Ponti’s Petals, and Investors Bank on North Washington Avenue to rehearse their winter carols for the public. The Madrigals are a select group of distinguished singers within the choir system, picked out by Ms. Piano for their skill.

Ponti's Petals on N. Washington Avenue

Student caroling has been a tradition in Dunellen high school for 53 years, first started by James Heard, the previous choral director in Dunellen for 33 years. Ms. Piano is proud to be 1 of only 3 choral directors in the history of DHS, the first being Ruth M. Fisher.

Dunellen Hotel on N. Washington Avenue

“What I like the kids to experience is that world, real-life experience…” states Ms. Piano. Through the choir program, she aims to teach students more than simply how to sing. She describes the caroling tradition as a lesson in public speaking and confidence. She aims to improve not only their performance level, but also their “future lives; their careers”.

One week later, on December 22, the entire choir performed the annual “Holiday Concert” in the High School’s assembly room: The James Heard Auditorium. Their performance was a result of training and learning since the beginning of this school year. One audience member commented that she “felt the spirit of Christmas” at the concert. Others were impressed with the song choice and power of the display.

The concert opened with a recital of the National Anthem by the Madrigals. Many segments of the performance stood out, including a solo by Junior Celeste Piano and a quartet of Amber Woll, Matthew VanNess, Jessica Devine, and Brennian Lush. Karl Geiger accompanied singers via piano and keyboard, and Senior David Castillo stepped in on drums for one piece.

“The quartet just came to be because they just started singing together...they realized that their voices blended really nicely together,” comments Ms. Piano. She encourages individual pursuits such as this among her students.

One song stood out to audience members. It is titled Das neugebor’ne Kindelein (The newborn babe, the heavenly child), and was sung completely in German. Ms. Piano and her singers have claimed this to be the most challenging carol this year. She also especially commends the piece for its value in music theory. “There’s so much music theory behind it that it’s lasting. Some of the pop songs [are] based on 3-4 chords, and after a week it’s boring. I wanted them to experience a real, meaty, classical piece of music.”

Das Neugebor'ne Kindelein was composed by Joann Sebastian Bach

As yet another tradition for the choir, all alumni once part of the DHS choir were invited on stage for Carol of the Bells. One viewer described this surprising performance as ‘powerful’.

These are widely enjoyed parts of Christmas in DHS, and the community will see it all again next year, with slight variations. As of now, the choir is practicing for the Spring concert, hoping to start as early as possible. One theme that attendees can expect is The Lion King.

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