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Johnson: DHS Christmas concert plays into holiday season

By Reed Johnson / Our Town Columnist

Every year, the Dickinson High School band and choir students hold an annual Christmas concert at Dickinson State University’s Dorothy Stickney Auditorium.

This year, the concert was held on Dec. 17. The concert, led by Michael Stevenson and accompanied by Sharon Gegelman on the piano, started off with the choir.

The first song was “Personet Hodie.” It had a very atypical intro, as choir students came in through Stickney Auditorium’s main doors and then took the stage while singing. Senior David Fehr “had a fun time” participating in the procession.

Fehr has sang choir all four years of high school and considers the holiday concert one of his favorites to participate in.

“It isn’t just about looking and dressing the right way, it really is just about being up on stage, playing and singing your heart out,” Fehr said.

The choir continued along with their concert order. Most songs were about Christmas, but some were about Hanukkah as well.

Choir students would sing all together as a chorale for most songs, but would then break off into festival choir, swing choir and concert choir for other arrangements. Junior Kelsey Bailey described her experience overall as “being good.”

“I think it went well, and we had a well-rounded performance,” said Bailey, who has had three years of choir experience under Stevenson.

One song performed exclusively by the swing choir was “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” but it wasn’t the classic version.

“Rudolph” was sped up, and the students offered interjections after every line of the tune. Junior Tyler Stewart, a member in the concert band, described it as “awkward, weird and funny.”

After the choir performed their last song, “Christmas Pops Trio,” there was a short intermission while the Dickinson High band took to the stage.

Dickinson’s band is directed by Keith Traquair, who has had several years of experience teaching band and many more playing in bands, both in concert and jazz settings. Traquair teaches both the windband and the concert band, which have younger and older students, respectively.

This year’s wind band started out with the song “Latin Bell Carol.” The younger band had a good woodwind section and were aided by some members of the concert band percussion. The song had a very bright feel, in addition to having a quick tempo and moving brass section.

Toward the end of the event, the concert band, featuring seniors, juniors and some sophomores, took the stage.

The concert band boasts a large brass section, a qualified percussion section and a strong woodwind section, highlighted by the flutes.

The flute section is helped significantly by junior Brittany Barndt, who has primarily played first-chair flute in Traquair’s band, and who has also qualified for Northern Plains Music Festival and tried out for all-state band.

“We all worked hard (at the concert) and I’m glad it turned out as well as it did,” Barndt said, adding that the band has been practicing for this concert since late October.

After a routine warm up, the band took the stage for its first piece, “A Showstoppin’ Christmas,” which had a brassy feel and was aided by junior Tyler Stewart, who has played the trumpet for three years under Traquair.

Stewart said the concert was “exciting and fun,” and it brought out the meaning of Christmas.

More traditional pieces soon followed, with classics such as “Santa Baby,” “Blue Christmas,” and the final tune, “Joy to the World.” In “Joy to the World,” the audience was invited to sing along during the chorus.

The final performance of the evening was “A Family Spectacular Christmas.”

In this selection, band and choir students performed simultaneously. Volume was well maintained, as the band didn’t overpower the choir, and the choir sang loud enough for the audience to hear.

The pair ended with wishing the audience a happy holiday season.

While 2013 may be ending, the band is looking forward to the back half of the school year with optimism, especially junior Megan Arneson. She said it is always a treat to play at DSU, and to share Dickinson High’s band with the public.

“We spent many weeks practicing and picking apart some of our favorite holiday song, said Arneson, who is in the concert band. “Our band has been coming together very nicely over this last semester and I look forward to what we will accomplish together in the future.”