Choir and drama tell stories through Literature Concert

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Graphic illustration by Catherine Zhou; Photos by Katie Chin

Choir and Studio 74 actors perform various songs and dances in the Literature Concert.

Katie Chin

Lynbrook’s Literature Concert, hosted by the choir and drama departments, brought the literature pieces in English classes to life through fascinating songs and dances. From a passionate reenactment of Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene to an enthralling performance of the Dominican Republic’s national anthem, the musicians and actors showcased fantastical performances to family and friends. 6 years since its first show, the Literature Concert returned to Lynbrook on Oct. 11.

The concert kicked off with a rendition of “Ain’t We Got Fun” from The Great Gatsby, a traditional component of both the juniors’ American Literature and AP Language and Composition curriculum. The choir performed a light-hearted routine, choreographed by junior Isha Shah, as their voices filled the room, the angelic singing ringing loud and clear. Actors from Studio 74 portrayed cackling witches in a performance of one of the most famous scenes from Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. The National Anthem of the Dominican Republic was sung as a nod to the book, In the Time of the Butterflies, which sophomores are reading in their World Literature class. The event ended with a wistful performance of “Call Me But Love” from Romeo and Juliet, a play read by the freshmen.

First presented six years ago as the Novels Concert, the Literature Concert was driven by the idea of a collaboration between the choir and English departments. This year, the drama department joined in on the action, with actors performing dramatic monologues and scenes from the books presented, elevating the engaging experience of the concert.

In the Time of the Butterflies, a story of four sisters from the Dominican Republic leading the revolt against the cruel dictator Rafael Trujillo, proved to be particularly difficult to bring to the stage. Choir director Crystal Isola undertook the strenuous project of finding choral arrangements for traditional Spanish songs, reaching out to professors from several Latin countries.

“The book says that the song ‘My Little Sky’ is in the music box, and I couldn’t figure out what that meant,” Isola said. “I was on the internet for days trying to figure out what ‘My Little Sky’ was, and finally I figured out that it was the song ‘Cielito Lindo,’ a Mexican folk song, but I guess in the Dominican Republic, they called it ‘My Little Sky’.”

Many Dominican songs did not come with music fit for choir, so Isola ultimately decided to have soloists or small groups of students — rather than the entire choir — sing. Senior Arya Ramchander was the only student to take up the role of soloist, giving a spirited performance of the Dominican National Anthem. The Spanish songs were brightened by traditional Dominican dances, such as the charming merengue dance, performed by three students.

While The Great Gatsby boasted plenty of musical components, To Kill a Mockingbird had no mention of music within it, so Isola proudly decided to write her own choral arrangement for the song “Strange Fruit.” For both books, the music performed was composed to harmonize with the time period of the book. However, the music for Shakespeare’s plays were chosen for their similarity in tone to the play, rather than their historical accuracy.

Much of Studio 74’s work in the concert was directed by students. 6 student directors worked together to produce dramatic readings and reenactments of the books’ most notable scenes. Due to drama director Dani Howard’s maternity leave, the drama students held meetings and rehearsals at a student’s house. While some had prior experience with directing, it was a new venture for others.

“We’re all learning together as a team,” said sophomore Annika Dhebar, a student director for the concert. “We really got to know each other better, and now we’re like a mini family.”

Since many of the students had read the books performed in the concert, the directors were able to incorporate their personal knowledge of the stories into the performances. Due to the shortage of drama students participating in the concert, many performers were casted in several roles, and directors and managers had to be casted in the show as performers. In Howard’s absence, the students learned to handle last-minute changes and plan and run rehearsals by themselves.

As a member of both choir and drama, Dhebar was the lead coordinator between the departments.

“We learned how to take on a lot of responsibility,” Dhebar said. “It really showed us what we’re capable of together, and not just individually.”

Through the concert, Lynbrook students were given the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the books they are reading in their English classes.

“I think it’s wonderful to have a partnership between two different disciplines,” English teacher Joanna Chan said. “It develops this idea that learning can be cross-curricular and can give students a more well-rounded understanding of the place of literature in their lives.”