High school orchestra rocks out with Trans-Siberian Orchestra tribute

Dec 19, 2016

Heather Church performed with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for four seasons, seven years before bringing an entire tribute show to Dartmouth High School. The school's string orchestra performed the tribute for the first time on December 16, rocking the house with narration, electric instruments, and a light show.

"Every year we incorporate one or two TSO songs into the holiday concert," said Church, the school's orchestra director. "But the kids wanted more. I'm hoping it becomes a tradition."

The 130-student group performed two shows, adding new instruments and visuals to their annual winter performance, said Church. The team rented 100 light stands, introduced electric instruments, and hired New Bedford-based Lightworks Productions to synchronize dancing lights to its music.

"We were trying to replicate a real TSO show, minus the pyrotechnics," said Church.

Additionally, Church said, the second showing included about 25 alumni — graduates from up to 12 years ago — that performed alongside the eighth through 12th graders.

"It was fun to see students from years ago," said Church, who has co-led the orchestra for the past 13 years with instructor Charlene Monte. Church said if the TSO tribute becomes a yearly tradition, it will be "a nice way to reconnect" with alumni.

The high school orchestra started practicing the music in September, but the first sight-reading wasn't as smooth as the December performance, Church said.

"You can't imagine at that first rehearsal that it's going to turn into a piece of music," she said. For this show, the string orchestra introduced percussion and electric instruments. "We do these concerts so students can play something other than classical music."

The performance went along like a story, with a narrator introducing a scene, and the musicians acting it out with instrumentals. It wasn't without hiccups though.

Church had worked with the school's head maintainer Rick Ferreira and District No. 1 Fire Chief Brad Ellis to bring smoke and hazing effects to the show. During the first performance, the smoke machine tripped the alarm. The team had disconnected the sound beforehand, but the trigger turned on the auditorium lights. However, with a quick response and an engaging orchestra, hardly anyone noticed.

"It coincided with the orchestra kids asking the audience to stand up," said Church.

Overall, the show was a success, said Church.

"It just really excited kids, and that's exactly what we're trying to do," she said. Church said she could tell the high school performers were much more relaxed during the second showing, and was happy they were able to relax and enjoy it more. "I told them, 'I think we should take this show on the road.'"

The ticket sales will go toward upcoming trips, said Church, explaining that the orchestra has performed in Austria, Germany, and Canada. However, the orchestra plans on one more TSO imitation.

"The real TSO donates money to a local charity wherever they're playing, so we're going to make a donation to a local charity," said Church. "We're going to decide [which charity] as an orchestra."

The orchestra will present another concert on December 20 at Dartmouth High at 7 p.m.