Hundreds crowd church for Candlelight amid exam excitement

St. John the Divine had to accommodate record numbers of performers this year due to an influx of singers in both Chorale and St. Johns Singers.

Cara Maines

St. John the Divine had to accommodate record numbers of performers this year due to an influx of singers in both Chorale and St. John’s Singers.

Marisa Murillo, Staff Writer

Somewhere between writing synthesis papers and preparing for midterm exams, students of all grades united in a musical collaboration to celebrate the holiday season. Ensembles from all divisions of the school performed in Candlelight at 7:00 p.m, Dec. 11.

“I love the power of such a big portion of our community being in one space to celebrate and give thanks together,” said Megan Henry, Assistant Choral Director of Les Chanteuses and Cantatores.

With approximately a hundred more musicians this year than last, Candlelight brought the school together.

“It’s rare that we all have the opportunity to come together in an event like Candlelight,” freshman violinist Katherine Yao said. “Our community takes some time out of our busy lives to celebrate the holidays. Seeing everyone together at Candlelight reminds me how grateful and happy I am to be at SJS.”

Students prepared challenging pieces and attended supplementary rehearsals, most of which began two weeks prior to the performance.

“The music this year was pretty hard, so we had numerous morning rehearsals in addition to our ninth period rehearsals. It was a pain to wake up early and start rehearsals at seven, but in the end it payed off,” Yao said. “It’s a fun and rare opportunity for orchestra to accompany the choirs, so I made the best of this experience.”

Parents and faculty members start planning Candlelight months in advance.

“Candlelight is a massive undertaking, a logistical challenge to say the least, with hundreds of moving parts,” Bonasso said. “It takes the teamwork and support of the entire SJS community to pull it off.”

After senior Vice President of Chapel Guild Emily Sherron delivered the opening prayer, senior Head Prefect Akshay Jaggi spoke about why Christmas is his favorite time of year and what the season means to him.

“Candlelight is a time of year, while stressful because of impending midterms, when I can release all the stress I may carry, enjoy music and appreciate my family and friends both in Jazz Band and Chorale,” sophomore Matthew Walsh said.

Every year, Candlelight ends with “Wonderful Peace,” an a capella song performed by Upper School choirs.

“Our annual finale creates a really special moment in the sanctuary,” senior Reece Wallace said.  “It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Among the advanced pieces Chorale performed was R. Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Christmas Carols,” which lasted eleven minutes and featured Rohand Ramchand (‘13) as a vocal soloist.

“I love Candlelight because the students clearly love and cherish it,” said Scott Bonasso, director of Kantorei and Chorale. “This shows in the passion and determination with which they rehearse and prepare for the concert.”

The Upper School orchestra accompanied the choirs in songs including “What Shall We Bring?” which also featured faculty singers.

“As a freshman, it’s my first year to be part of the Candlelight performances,” Yao said. “I’m surprised to say that I’ve enjoyed the whole rehearsal process that makes for my first Candlelight experience.”

Following the performance in St. John the Divine, Kantorei sang Christmas carols outside of the gym, and Jazz Band played annual favorites such as “Feliz Navidad” inside.

“Candlelight is so important to me because of the way it brings the school community together,” Wallace said. “It’s uniquely humbling to watch the sanctuary fill with people who celebrate the gifts of the season together.”