Hall High School’s 58th annual Pops ‘n Jazz, which opens March 11, will feature students from the school’s highly-acclaimed and award-winning jazz bands, dancers, and singers, as well as special guest artists.
By Ronni Newton
Rehearsals have been in progress for weeks and excitement is mounting as one of West Hartford’s most highly-anticipated events – Hall High School’s annual Pops ‘n Jazz Extravaganza – prepares for its March 11 opening night.
“We’re really excited,” said Lisa Aldave, a parent of two student performers who has been helping publicize this year’s gala show. She said that tickets are still available for all performances, although both Saturday night shows are selling out quickly.
One of the notable guest artists who will be participating this year, Aldave said, is singer Alita Moses, a 2011 Hall graduate who is already making a name for herself as a jazz artist. Moses, 2014 winner of the Shure Montreux Jazz Competition, has been rehearsing with the Hall Concert Jazz Band and other groups, and will make her guest appearance at the Pops ‘n Jazz show on March 17.
More than 100 current students will also entertain audience members during the five shows.
Prominently featured will be Hall’s Concert Jazz Band, which won first place at the Berklee School of Music Jazz Festival in Boston on Feb. 6, 2016. The Hall Concert Jazz Band has in the past performed at the White House and has repeatedly been invited to the Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center.
Hall’s Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, Jazz Dancers, and Choraliers will also perform, as will the combined Hall-Conard honors string orchestra I Giovani Solisti.
According to a news release, the program will include “an array of American jazz classics from all eras, performed in big band and combo settings, highly choreographed jazz productions, and featured solo performances.” The eclectic selection of music will incorporate traditional and progressive jazz as well as pop-rock. A medley of Billy Joel tunes from the Broadway musical Movin’ Out will be one of the highlights.
In addition to the high school performers and Moses, organizers of this year’s extravaganza are also excited to have a Grammy Award winner as well as a Grammy nominee among the guest artists.
Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra won a Grammy in 2016 for Best Instrumental Composition for The Afro Latin Jazz Suite, and was also nominated for his newest album, Cuba: The Conversation Continues in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble category. The three-time Grammy Award winner and six-time nominee will be featured on piano during the March 12 performance.
O’Farrill – a pianist, composer, educator, and founder and artistic director of the nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance – is a native of Mexico who grew up in New York City. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory, and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, and is the son of the late, legendary jazz musician Chico O’Farrill.
Grammy Award nominee and saxophonist Ted Nash will be featured on March 18. Participation of guest performers is supported by the Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust.
Additional featured performances will include King Philip Middle School’s KP Singers (March 19), the King Philip Jazz Band (March 17), and King Philip’s Sixth Dimension (March 11).
“Hall Junior Artists” from Aiken and Norfeldt elementary schools, and the Aiken/Norfeldt Jazz Band, will be featured on March 12. Bugbee, Morley, Smith STEM, and Whiting Lane music students will be recognized on March 19.
Appearing for the first time as part of Pops ‘n Jazz this year will be the Bristow Middle School Jazz Band on March 18.
Hall High School’s Pops ‘n Jazz program dates back to 1958 and was founded by former band director Bill Stanley. According to the release, the West Hartford school was one of the first high schools in the U.S. to integrate jazz music into its daily curriculum. The district has received the Kennedy Center Award for Excellence in Arts Education.
The 58th annual production of Pops ’n Jazz opens March 11, with additional performances March 12, 17, 18, and 19. Doors open at 7 p.m. and performances begin at 7:30 p.m.
For the first time ever, reserved seating is available through a new online ticketing system at http://hallhighjazz.tix.com. Tickets are $18 for adults and $14 for students. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Hall High box office Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.; and Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Pops ’n Jazz is co-produced by James Antonucci, Hall High’s Director of Bands and Jazz Bands, and Emmett Drake, Hall High’s Orchestra Director and Director of I Giovani Solisti. The Jazz Singers are under the direction of Vocal Director Lorri Cetto and the Jazz Dancers are under the direction of Choreographer Tessa Grunwald. Technical Director Greg Scheiber is responsible for stage management, lighting, and audio. Additional assistance is provided by Hall High parents, teachers, and staff.
Hall Concert Jazz Band alumni include renowned jazz musicians Jimmy Macbride (drums), Garrett Sayers (bass), Drew Sayers (sax), Richie Barshay (drums), Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Brad Mehldau (piano), Pete McGuinness (trombone), Noah Preminger (tenor sax), Patrick Zimmerli (tenor sax), and Gregg Kallor (piano).
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