A Night at the Movies


The Widdigers, directed by Mr. Berlanga, singing in the fall choral concert. Credit: Williston Flickr

Williston students sang from The Lion King, danced to Footloose, and came together as a community in the chapel on February 16th for the Winter Choral Coffeehouse. For the first time in recent memory, Williston’s choral groups, the Caterwaulers, Widdigers, and Wildchords, incorporated dancing and costumes into their concert.

“This winter concert was sort of a test run to see if we want to do something like show choir here,” said Mr. Steven Berlanga, Williston’s Director of Choirs. “A lot of the students stepped up to the plate in terms of doing a lot of solo work and dancing, something that they haven’t done before this year, or haven’t done before,” said Mr. Berlanga.

“I had a blast at our most recent concert,” said Caroline Channell ’18. Channell has been taking Widdigers every trimester since freshman year. This concert she soloed in “Summer Nights” as Sandy.  “I’m not going to lie, the dancing was a little rough for me because I am very clumsy. I still enjoyed the dancing, but it was certainly hard to sing and dance at the same time. It made me realize that the fitness they did in Pitch Perfect is totally worth it,” she said.

The singing groups on campus had a concert in the fall, and also had a Winter Warmer to help raise money and donate coats and blankets to a community center. This concert’s theme was “A Night at the Movies,” and it was the first to incorporate dancing and costumes into the numbers.

Ms. Debra Vega, director of dance ensemble, came to rehearsals and taught dances for the songs. The boys and girls rehearsed separately because they had a different class time, and Ms. Vega only saw the groups five times in total.

Originally, students were not very enthusiastic about the dancing. Mr. Berlanga believes they didn’t like it because their rehearsals were so fragmented, and they could not practice with the whole group. “It wasn’t until we got those combined rehearsals that everyone liked it and realized it would be fun,” he said.

Mr. Berlanga left the ideas up to the students. “It was sort of centered around them choosing everything,” he said. He provided guidance and quality control to ensure that the concert was a good balance of songs. Almost every student, of the sixty Caterwaulers, Widdigers, and Wildchords, had a solo moment. Some people sang entire songs, while some only soloed for a line. People also had roles playing instruments for the band. “Everything was doing something, which was great,” said Berlanga.

“It was definitely something new that I had never done before,” said Henry Poehlein ’18, a third-year Caterwauler. He sang Danny’s part in “Summer Nights.” “I think that the movie theme was new to all of us and took us all out of our comfort zone.”

“It was a lot of fun once we realized that the concert would look wild anyway and just realized we should have fun,” said Poehlein.

Fiona Bundy ’18 said the atmosphere at the concert was lively and fun. Different choral groups cheered each other on in between songs, and everyone was smiling.

In upcoming terms, Mr. Berlanga hopes to continue to raise the quality of the performance as well as challenge the students and force them to master new skills, like singing and dancing. In the future, he says they might perform in the theater, have costume changes, and lighting design in order to make the concert more like show choir. He wishes it were easier for students to be involved in choir. In the spring trimester he is losing several students who are leaving the class because they need to fulfill an academic requirement.

Mr. Berlanga is a good friend of Mr. Joshua Harper, who worked with the singing groups in the past. “I am always thinking of how my friend left this program and we talk so much about how it should move forward,” said Mr. Berlanga. “I want to change the structure of the way the program fits into the school so students are able to participate more. And then raise the quality to a much higher level,” he said.

In the spring, Mr. Berlanga and the singing groups will be creating a masterwork, defined by Mr. Berlanga as “a large piece of music with a combination of voices and instruments.” He also plans to have a community concert, like the Winter Warmer, every term.

Mr. Berlanga said more students should join the classes for the spring term. “We need sopranos and altos!”