By Rain Ji ’19
Each year, students and faculty have mixed feelings about the two weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The short chunk of time is, for most students, filled with quizzes, tests and projects, but there is also a festive atmosphere on campus and many wonderful Gunnery traditions happening, including the Holiday Dinner and Winter Concert.
Some of the most notable Gunnery traditions revolve around fundraising for those in need during the holiday season. Students raise money for the Save the Children Foundation by paying five dollars to wear an ugly holiday sweater instead of formal dress to the Holiday Dinner, and purchasing candy cane grams for a dollar each that get distributed at the Holiday Dinner. This is always organized by the Prefects, and this year, students and faculty raised $1473 for the Save the Children Foundation.
Additionally, under the initiative of Dr. Wojcik, The Gunnery partners with Friends in Service to Humanity of Northwestern CT each year to decorate a Christmas tree on the first floor of Dining Hall and provide gifts for underprivileged children in the region.
In addition to these fundraising opportunities, the Prefects organize a Secret Snowflake gift exchange to follow the Holiday Dinner and precede the Winter Concert. Every student is assigned another student randomly and they buy them a small gift. All these gifts are exchanged at the end of dinner in a chaotic but joyful way, and the Dining Hall was filled with noise and laughter as it all happened.
The most exciting part of the night is always the Winter Concert, when various bands and music groups on campus performed for students, faculty and families, and this year was no exception. Following the formal dinner, students and faculty went up to the Meeting House, where they heard from the music groups here on campus.
The concert began with “O Holy Night” by Sean Douglas ‘19, then The Troubadours followed with “We Need a Little Christmas,” “The Snow Begins to Fall,” “Carols Around,” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.”
The Highlander Ringers, supervised by Ms. Albright and conducted by Drew Sutherland ‘21, brought to the audience “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas – Up On the Housetop.” The Highlander Ringers is a new Gunnery music group that plays with handbells, and the entire audience laughed along when the clapper inside one of the bells fell out at the end of the song.
The Highlander Ringers were followed by the Chamber Ensemble, which consisted of Jihoon An ‘20, Serdar Kaltalioglu ‘22 and Cody Moore ‘19. They played “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The first part of the Winter Concert ended with the Ukulele Ensemble, which is directed by Max Farrar ‘21. They played “Winter Wonderland,” and the holiday spirit was building up slowly but surely.
The second part of the concert was more interactive between the performers and the audience, and the songs were more familiar, allowing students and faculty to sing along. According to Mr. Perkins, who oversees all bands, the music and songs were chosen in order to “accommodate a wide variety of skill and experience among the musicians” as well as “to showcase seniors and the most talented musicians.”
Jazz Band performed “Sky Dive” and “Gettin’ In the Mood (of Christmas).” The band did a fantastic job overall. “Sky Dive” is a piece of music composed by the famous trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, and provided Eli Berano ‘19 with an opportunity for an excellent trumpet solo. During the performance of “Gettin’ in the Mood,” the saxophones performed the introduction in unison, and with memorable riff, the tune was emphasized again. Additionally, Hannah Richards ‘20 performed a saxophone solo. The voices of Sofia Trotta ’19 and John Crabtree ’19 created perfect symphony with the instruments for an overall extremely success performance.
Rock Band 1 performed a mashup between “All I Want For Christmas is You,” “I Want You Back” and “Superstition.” During “All I Want For Christmas is You,” a Christmas classic, much of the audience joined Ali Noeding ‘19, Hadley Townsend ‘20 and Erica Zhang ‘20 in singing.
Rock Band 2 brought “We Will Rock You,” “Good Times, Bad Times” and “We Are The Champions.” These are all classic rock songs, and especially because of the recently released movie “Bohemian Rhapsody,” most of the audience knew the songs well.
The Winter Concert ended with the entire school collectively singing “Twelve Days of Christmas,” a Gunnery tradition that always pushes the holiday spirit to its peak. Many claimed that singing with friends and family was the best part of the night, and it’s always an excellent send-off for winter break and the holiday season.