PCA's Junior High and Upper School Take Center Stage

Portsmouth Christian Academy’s 7th through 12th grade students showed incredible talents this week, as the Upper School Music Department finally hosted its 2021 Christmas Concerts on Wednesday, and our Junior High Speech Meet Winners presenting their speeches to parents, students, and teachers of the Junior High department.

On Wednesday night, our gymnasium was serenaded with beautiful performances by Upper School Voices, Jazz Band, and Symphony Orchestra. Our Jazz Band members kicked the night off with an arrangement from Thad Jones’ “Child is Born,” a piece written to signify the joy parents experience when they bring a new life into the world. Following up was their performance of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” led by senior-vocalist, four-time member of New Hampshire’s Jazz All-State group Will Kuzman, as well as three-time New Hampshire Jazz All-State member, Court Baussmann, on the trumpet.

Following the Jazz Band’s performances, PCA Voices took the stage, beginning with “Run, Shepherds!” by Victor Johnson, with solo performances from Greta Geyer and Christian Knightly, accompanied by violinist Susie Stevens, and accompanist Eddie Xiao. Following suit was an angelic performance of “O Magnum Mysterium” by Tomas Luis de Victoria; “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Walter Kent and Kim Gannon, arranged by Russ Robinson; and “Oh Holy Night” by Adolphe-Charles Adam and Placide Clappeau, translation by John Dwight, arranged by Sally DeFord, with solos by Holland Brouillette, Abigail Eisner, Greta Geyer, and Elise Gillis.

Minutes later, the Symphony Orchestra gave powerful performances of “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and “Appalachian Morning,” with the heavy throng of Cameron Peirce’s saxophone punctuating the piece. Attention was then drawn to the strings section, where Susie Stevens’ talented violinists, violists, and celloist played the First Movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto in F-Major #288, bringing the audience of family members and stream technicians back to the Italian countryside of the early 1700’s.

The Symphony Orchestra punctuated the night’s performances with a compilation of 18 well-known Christmas songs: “Sleigh Ride” by Leeroy Anderson, which featured creative uses of percussion instruments by freshmen musicians Tyler Howe and Bobby Robinson, to imitate a horse’s hooves, the whip of the sleigh-driver, and even the “neigh” of the horse, courtesy of Cort Baussmann’s trumpet. Finally, joined by members of Voices, the entire department performed their traditional closer, “Hallelujah.”  

Said one parent of the night’s performances, “Please let everyone know what an incredible blessing last night was.  I didn’t realize how much I missed the tradition of a Christmas concert…..or hearing and singing the “Hallelujah” chorus….what a treasured slice of normalcy and peace for my heart and soul last night.  Mrs. Stevens’ work with the strings was incredibly beautiful.  I used to take the kids up to the Portland Symphony for classical music concerts for their education and the longing in my soul to hear beautiful music.  It all brought me to tears!  A slice of Christmas joy at the beginning of February was perfect!”

PCA’s Symphony Orchestra rehearsing prior to Wednesday night’s concert performances.

Elise Gillis, of PCA’s Voices, led by Katrina Veno, rehearses early Wednesday afternoon.

"...the longing in my soul to hear beautiful music. It all brought me to tears! A slice of Christmas joy at the beginning of February was perfect!"

PCA Parent

If you’d like to see the concert in its entirety, follow this link to watch the recording!

The next morning, we were blessed again to see the potential in our up-and-coming high school students within our Junior High program. Every year, our students participate in what’s known as “Speech Meet.” In it, each Junior High student picks a speech, poem, or scene from a movie to recite or re-enact. Each class makes their presentations in their homeroom. After that, each homeroom teacher selects the best presenters as the winners. These winners then give their presentations in front of the entire Junior High department.

Kicking off the meet was Lexi Jordan, who gave a riveting persuasive speech on why people should adopt dogs from shelters. Following Lexi was Anna Tolley, who presented a well-composed argument in support of mask-wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic. After Anna, Ava Buchanan, Bhumika Prem, and Chloe Bosma acted out impressive renditions, entirely memorized and without notes, of “The Two Complainers,” “The Silent Couple,” and “A Battle of Wits,” respectively. Each student humorously acted out the dialogue from their stories without a single hesitation!

 

Following the cheerful re-enactments, El Currier, Emma Eisner, and Ellie Kim gave powerful and moving presentations of famous speeches from well-known orators. Currier gave Patrick Henry’s ground-shaking “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech given at the Virginia Convention of 1775, effectively setting the nation’s revolutionary wheels in motion. Eisner recited “A Birthday Speech on Education,” a humbling and solemn presentation made in front of the UN by then 12-year-old Malala Yousufzai on the importance of peace, freedom, and education after being attacked by the Taliban. Lastly, Ellie Kim gave Romanian-born American writer Elie Weisel’s, “The Perils of Indifference,” warning against the loss of empathy in American culture.

Each student presented their speeches and scenes with great clarity, confidence, and courage. Said Dr. Abood, Lower School Principal, “This year’s winners in the Junior High house were confident, well-spoken, and engaging.  It was a proud moment for me as Principal to watch each person come to the microphone and capture the attention of her peers so easily.  We are blessed to be at a school that celebrates and encourages students to work hard and accomplish challenges such as the Speech Meet.  Congratulations to all the classroom winners!”

Following their presentations, the students were given a loud round of applause from their peers and the few parents who were present in the back of the room. We truly are blessed to have such talented students, and even more blessed that they’re willing to share their gifts with us all.

"We are blessed to be at a school that celebrates and encourages students to work hard and accomplish challenges such as Speech Meet."

Lower School Principal, Dr. Carrie Abood