Christmas Caroling with the Chamber Orchestra and Sax Quartet

On the twenty-third, two days before Christmas, Ward Melville’s chamber orchestra and saxophone quartet spread some holiday cheer by performing in different parts of the community. It was an exhilarating but tiring day for the musicians; they made a total of four stops to the North Country Administration Building, Sunrise retirement homes, St. Charles hospital, and Stony Brook hospital, all while carrying the heavy load of their instruments, music binders, and stands. Needless to say, as orchestra teacher Mr. Gelfer noted on the ride back home, there were few complaints, and the majority of students were glad to have missed most of their school day for these community service efforts.

The day was mildly cold; it was warm enough to leave a jacket behind on the bus but cold enough for most students to adorn on an ugly Christmas sweater and a Santa hat for the holiday spirit. Getting from one place to the other was difficult; stands had to be put away properly and crammed onto one seat of the bus, and instruments had to be packed away quickly into cases一for cellists and bassists, there was no worry about that manner; they did not bring cases to begin with and instead took their school instruments and bows with them on the bus. In particular, this would be a risky move for those musicians; their instruments were now exposed to the dangers of cold air and collision into nearby objects, and it was also difficult for them to find a seat on the bus. (Cellos and basses do not provide great leg room in the cramped seats of a typical vehicle.) A few strings came out of tune and some bridges were bumped into bus seats and people, but no great disaster stroke on the expensive instruments.

A schedule supervised by Mr. Hein and Mr. Gelfer was followed throughout the day; the orchestra and saxophone quartet played the same Hanukkah and Christmas tunes to each stop they went. They first stopped at the North Country Administration and played in the meeting spot of the Three Village Board of Education, where they were able to enjoy some snacks afterward. Later, they played for the elderly at Sunrise and also for patients, doctors, and nurses at the St. Charles and Stony Brook hospitals.

Listeners enjoyed a great music selection; from the chamber orchestra, familiar Christmas tunes such as “Silent Night”, “Christmas Eve in Sarajevo”, and arrangements from The Nutcracker were played, as well as “Hanukkah Habanera”, a piece with a classic twist on traditional Jewish songs and music from the opera, Carmen. From the saxophone quartet, they played songs that included “Sleigh Ride” and “The Christmas Song”.

At the end of their program, after some lunch at the cafeteria in Stony Brook hospital, the music groups headed on the bus to return to Ward Melville. Although most musicians were tired, they still had some energy and spirit, and there were quite some comedic moments at the bus ride home. One cellist on the back of the bus played the first eight notes of the infamous Pachelbel’s Canon and did so in a repetitive manner so that all who recognized the tune (that was everyone) could sing the other parts in harmony.

The students sounded like angels, but then again…Lucifer was an angel (and we know how that turned out).

Overall the day was well spent, and to remark how worthwhile it was, friends told friends that they would definitely run this field trip again if they could. What a way for these musicians to spread holiday cheer to the community and amongst themselves!