By Peter Day
Just a few years ago, a Lucerne Valley audience enthusiastically cheered when middle and high school musicians performed the rudimentary “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” This past week, on May 16, appreciative patrons heard instrumentalists and singers perform the challenging works of Mozart, Mark Williams and Brian Balmages.
For many years Lucerne Valley Unified School District schools were without a music program, but band, orchestra and choir were reintroduced at LVMS in 2014 after Local Control and Accountability Plan surveys identified music as a top education priority. Last fall, a few years after the highly regarded Brigham Welch left for another teaching opportunity, music instructor Amy James-Forrette joined the staff.
James-Forrette’s much-welcomed effectiveness was on display Thursday when the program performed its spring concert, “Songs for Spring.” While intonation at times was an issue, the technique, music reading ability and grasp of harmonically and rhythmically challenging music was awe-inspiring. Making the performance even more impressive was that many of the students hadn’t bowed a violin or tooted a trombone before school began last August.
The spring jubilee began with the String Orchestra opened the show with Stephen Chin’s “Silver Forest.” the orchestra turned to a pop number when it performed James-Forrette’s arrangement of “Northern Downpour” by Panic at the Disco. The orchestral segment concluded with a song that the director admitted was technically beyond the ability of the players, Mark Williams’ “Dramatic Essay.” But the musicians’ heart for the piece showed, and, again, it was well played.
Next up was the school Band, which performed Brian Balmages three movement “Midnight Suite.” James-Forrette explained to the audience that it should refrain from applauded between suite segments. Most complied, but a few proud family members couldn’t resist clapping for the musicians. The composition consisted of “Midnight Mission,” “Midnight Sky,” and “Midnight Madness.”
The High School Band played the 1970’s rock classic, “Carry On Wayward Son,” arranged for band by James-Forrette. It was a fresh interpretation that a full rock or jazz-style drum set — acoustic or electronic — could help kick into gear.
Teacher-coach Kelli Papiernik, one of the school’s versatile utility players, again served with expertise and sensitivity as piano accompanist for the choir in a segment that mixed contemporary pop with the classics. Queen’s “We Will Rock You” started things off with the musicians singing and stomping their feet while chanting the anthem’s famous refrain. Next song was Wolfgang Mozart’s beautiful “Lacrymosa,” which was sung in Latin. Next was the French language son “J’entends Le Moulin” followed by a Spanish version of “Remember Me” from Disney’s “Coco.”
The choir was joined by a few string players to perform the sentimental “In Flanders Fields,” which included the 1915 people by Dr. John McCrae.
As a special touch, the director brought graduating seniors Rebekah Hart, Austin Buchanan, Kennedy Silva, Kylee Horton and Cheyenne Christman to the front for a round of applause.
Previous music instructors at the school let the students dip their toes into the music’s warm water. Teacher James-Forrette has gently thrown the eager learners into the middle of the pool — and these fledgling Lucerne Valley musicians are swimming just fine.
Band members: (flute) Emma Nefferdorf, Lilliana Forsythe, Kayla Reyes; (alto saxophone) Rebekah Hart, Harley Eaton, Kimberly Luna; (trumpet) Kylee Lambert, Kevin Angeles, Alexander Guzman; (trombone) Savannah Irene Porter; (euphonium) Connor Rudolph, Ruby Muniz-Diaz; (clarinet) Christina Michal, Raven Leonardo Semeka Sailata, Bruce Fowler, Robert Palmer, Thomas Grandjean III, Linda Cossio Avelar; (tenor saxophone) Kennedy Silva; (baritone saxophone) Richard Terletter; (percussion) Corbin De La Cruz, Jesse Gutierrez, Osiris Perez, Brita Vaughn.
Choir members: Austin Buchanan, Genesis Fausto Borrallo, Rebekah Hart, Blaze Rivera, Kennedy Silva, Cheyenne Christman, Emma Gardner, Jenae Rankin, Giselle Silva.
Orchestra members: (violin) Kylee Horton, Aloura Cook, Jacqueline Jimenez, Jenese Alarcon; (cello) Noemy Magdaleno-Raygoza, Walter Williams.