Francis Betkowski ’23
Like everything else this year the Pops Concert was unique. Everything, from the rehearsals to the performance itself, changed due to COVID and the new Mercersburg schedule.
The band couldn’t rehearse together at the beginning of the term due to the restrictions under Level Two protocols. The band also had to start its practice virtually. As soon as the band could play outside, Bryan Morgan ‘08, Director of Music, took full advantage of the opportunity and held whole-group rehearsals on the hill next to the Burgin Center for the Arts.
Other performance groups faced similar obstacles. Magalia and Octet, the school’s a cappella groups, combined to form “Magtet.” Normally, the Octet practices in practice room 2 and Magalia practices in the choral room. This year, however, they all rehearsed in the Chapel. Both the Chorale and Magtet had to overcome the challenges of rehearsing in masks and finding an open place to practice. However, this led them to discover a silver lining: they got to rehearse in the Chapel, which has “beautiful acoustics,” according to Destiny Rodney ‘22.
Another first, the Pops Concert was held outside and all of the musical groups performed on the same night. Normally, there would be one concert for the Chorale, Concert Band, and Strings, with a separate concert for the Jazz Band, Octet, and Magalia. Another addition to the concert this year was the drumline, suggested to Morgan by Francis Betkowski ‘23. The piece Betkowski and Maddie Goodhart ‘24 picked for the drumline was called Jig 2. The chorus, the beginning, and the quad drum solo were a part of the original piece, but the Mercersburg percussion ensemble made the song their own by arranging the piece and adding solos. Morgan wrote the snare drum solo, and Betowski wrote the bass drum solo.
Thankfully, all went well during the performance. “I really enjoyed the drumline,” said Rodney. Betkowski agreed. “Not to be biased,” he said, “but my favorite part of the concert was the drumline. It was a lot of fun working with my fellow percussionists to master and perform the piece.”
Rodney also thought that the jazz band was spectacular. Though performers acknowledged a few hiccups, nothing truly unexpected or disastrous took place during the concert. Given the year they’ve had, “expected” was a great way to end things.
Of course, the concert would have been impossible if not for the hard work of the participating faculty, staff, and students. Morgan was a major force behind the concert. He directed the Chorale, Band, and Jazz Band, both virtually and in person. Jim Brinson directed Magtet, and Michael Cameron led the String Ensemble. They, too, led both virtual and in-person rehearsals in order to present a well-rehearsed event. Laurie Mufson, Director of the Arts, helped to schedule the concert within the busy Mercersburg spring schedule. Jessica Doubell, the Burgin Center’s Technical Director, helped with the stage and audio so that the concert could run as smoothly as possible. And last but not least, the students put their time, effort, and talent into making this concert one for the ages.