Tag Archives: Fine Arts

Sankofa Takes Flight

Photo of 2012 Sankofa performance by Matt Nunez '12/ STAMPEDE

In its ninth year, annual production draws more attention than ever

Matt Nuñez ‘12 | Editor In Chief

“Sankofa” is a traditional African symbol representing a bird, or the saying, “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”

As the Bishop McNamara African Dance program closes out its ninth annual Sankofa production, less and less is being forgotten.

Within 48 hours, and three weeks before opening night of “Kleopata,” this year’s production, tickets were sold out for all five performances over the weekend of March 8-March 11. This made it nearly impossible for many students to get tickets to support their friends and classmates.

“I’m really happy we’ve reached the point where the community embraces it,” said Mr. Victor Bah, African Dance teacher and Director of the annual Sankofa production. Coming to America eleven years ago, Mr. Bah did not expect anything close to the popularity the African Dance program has received over the years. When Sankofa began, it was a move to break away from the Dance department and their annual Spring production. While the Dance program incorporated some aspects of African Dance into their routines, it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain these traditions in the themes selected for the dance shows, Mr. Bah said. So, in 2003, the first Sankofa production, “Africa,” was performed by 18 students under the direction of Mr. Bah.

Mr. Bah said. So, in 2003, the first Sankofa production, “Africa,” was performed by 18 students under the direction of Mr. Bah.

This year’s program included 110 students, some who were part of the Sankofa Company, an elective course for main characters; and many more who are members of the African Dance levels one through four classes. The purpose of Sankofa is to highlight the dances that are rehearsed in the classes.

The story of Kleopata tells of the rise and fall of the last pharaoh of Egypt, Queen Cleopatra. Through deception and murder, Cleopatra rose to the throne, where she began loving relationships with Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony, who both succumbed to violent deaths, thus causing the downfall of Cleopatra and the Egyptian empire.

This year, the role of Cleopatra was split between seniors Ava McCoy and Rodneisha Gould, who took turns playing the lead and dancing in the ensemble.

“It’s really rare that you get to see raw African dance,” said Antonia Hill ‘12, who saw Sankofa for the first time this year. McNamara is not the only Holy Cross school to offer African Dance, but also the only school in the Archdiocese of Washington. Mr. Bah even claimed that throughout the entire country, there is not a single school he has heard of that has an African Dance program as robust as McNamara’s. “We don’t just dance; we tell stories with it,” Mr. Bah said.

The incredible success of Sankofa is due largely in part to the passion of the students involved, but it never would have succeeded without Mr. Bah’s vision. While Mr. Bah acknowledges that he could pursue further success in the show business, he does not forget his roots.

McNamara is the reason Mr. Bah came to America and he sticks around because he sees each year as a challenge to surpass the previous year. “All people should know their history, their culture, where they are coming from,” said Mr. Bah, and the goal is to take the past and use its lessons to progress in the future. Each year, Sankofa comes closer to fulfilling its full meaning, growing from a grassroots program to a cornerstone of McNamara’s identity; taking flight into the future but always remembering the past.

“Beauty in the Spaces”

Fred Hughes Jazz Trio performs in BMHS FADE Colloquium

Matt Nunez ‘12 | Editor-In-Chief

On the evening of Monday, September 26, Bishop McNamara Students had the opportunity to learn a new language, and watch a jazz band while doing it.

As the first part of the 2011-12 FADE series, the Fred Hughes Jazz Trio performed to a full theater of McNamara students and parents. The two major themes for the night were music as a language and the use of spaces (not playing) within jazz to complement the time spent playing.

“This [soloing] is always a conversation that we’re having,” explained Fred Hughes, pianist of the three part band, “I’m always trying to improve my voice and language.”

The three musicians – pianist, bassist and drummer – took time to answer questions and discuss their musical lives between songs. The students in attendance were eager to ask about improvisation, pursuing music in college, and even closing one’s eyes while playing. To the last question, drummer Frank Russo responded, “I just wanna close my eyes and feel it.” Hughes added on to that saying, “It’s allowing the creativity to flow.”

When asked about the influences on their music, each responded with jazz greats of their respective instruments. For bassist Keith Mohler, the inspiration came from Charlie Haden; for Russo, the great drummer Elvin Jones. Hughes claims that he is constantly inspired by jazz pianists but his favorite “depends on what I feel the deficiencies in my music are at the time.” Although not giving a clear answer, Hughes cited pianist Johnny Mandel as an influence before breaking into Mandel’s own “Theme From M*A*S*H”.

The music throughout the evening encompassed a few different types of jazz, but kept mostly to the standard swing beat. Several originals by Hughes were played with a few cover songs thrown in such as Mandel’s composition as well as “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck. Between songs, Hughes would address the musicians in the crowd specifically by asking them to look for certain rhythm changes as well as pay attention to the “spaces” between notes.

“The music you make is in your ears, your head, and your heart,” explained Russo, “Music is sound and it’s silence and sometimes the silence is just as important as the sound.”

The performance was the first in the series of FADE Colloquiums hosted by Bishop McNamara. FADE (Fine Arts Diploma Endorsement) is an arts program that recognizes dancers, singers, or musicians for their artistic achievements at McNamara by a special note on the diploma received at graduation. FADE students are required to attend a certain number of performances each year.

Fred Hughes was raised as a musician and began performing at twelve years-old. He currently performs at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor and has played, taught, and conducted music his whole life. He joined the US Army Band and after a service in Korea, came back to America and devoted more time to his professional life as a musician.

To see a more pictures from the performance, head over to ZOOM On McNamara

Theater Preview: Too Bad You Can’t Take It With You!

Spring play is expected to be a hit

Carolyn Conte ‘14
Staff Writer

The McNamara drama program is putting on You Can’t Take it With You as their annual spring play this year. Running from March 11-13, this Pulitzer prize-winning comedy is about an eccentric family who pursues their interests, hobbies and dreams no matter how odd they are, and about the story of what happens when one their daughters falls in love with a boy raised by a more “normal” house. McNamara’s rendition intends to entertain many and leave audiences with big smiles, starting opening night, March 11th.

Besides being funny, this play has moral themes hidden in it. The title, “You Can’t Take it with You” reminds audiences to consider the importance of tangible items. “The themes are really timeless. It shows a lot about the love of family, and emphasizes acceptance over materialism,” said director Ms. Mary Mitchell-Donahue. She’s also excited because “The characters are really great!”

“I always go! I love to. I think [McNamara plays] are really fun to watch. There’s so much talent, and I get to see a different side of my students, so it’s really fun,” said an animated Ms. Linda Corley of the Math Department. The last comedy by BMHS that she saw was Noises Off, from 2007. “It was one of the funniest things, it was hysterical! The kids really did a great job and pulled it off.”

The reason there hasn’t been a “modern day ha-ha,” as Ms. Donahue puts it, in a while, is “I want to expose students to a wide variety [of theatre] in the four years they are here. The same is true with musicals; there is a wide variety of composers the students are exposed to, so we aren’t just doing plays where it’s my favorite composer or something.”

“I’ve heard [McNamara plays] are really great and interesting, and that everybody should go see them,” said Bria Barber ‘13, who plans on seeing the much- awaited spring play.

The actors and actresses have been preparing for the play since the week after auditions started on January 4th. “At auditions the kids get to learn a little about the play,” explained Ms. Donahue. But as soon as casting is assigned, “we get straight to work!”

Elana Geary ‘14, one of only two freshman who has a role in the play, is “most excited about the chemistry on stage, which is really good.” Elana, who plays Gay Wellington (she refused to divulge who this character is and insists you come find out March 11th!) exclaims that “everyone is so nice.” Her brother Stephen Geary ‘12, who portrays “Grandpa,” agrees that the “community” is his favorite part of being involved with the play. Stephen is a little worried about lines after “all the days we had off from school.” Ms. Donahue, on the other hand, said she anticipated snow days. “When I am creating the rehearsal schedule I anticipate… some setbacks, but I figure that into the schedule.” So, don’t worry: “The students are very hardworking, and really good at doing what they’re expected,” Ms. Donahue said.

Tickets are available now on the school’s website for $10 per lucky guest, or you can easily purchase tickets at the office or during lunches. “I hope that the audience comes and has a good time first and foremost, and that they get the message of the play. I also hope that the students learn all the techniques of theatre… and work together as a team and family,” said Ms. Donahue. “Please come see it!” encourages Elana.

Theater Review: Les Mis Hits The Show Biz

Chorus from Les Miserables, in performance at the Christmas Fine Arts Assembly on December 10, 2010. (Carolina Rodrigues '11/THE STAMPEDE)

Les Mis Hits The Show Biz

Candace Brinkley ‘12
Staff Writer

Les Miserables, by title alone, may seem like a morbid, depressing play. But though the plot consists of deaths and heartache, the characters sprang to life by the brilliant skill of the actors. After months of hard work, the Bishop McNamara production of musical Les Miserables which opened on November 12, was a success.

This was the first fall musical I attended at Bishop McNamara and it did not disappoint. As everyone took their seat, the air was full of anticipation and excitement. The pit orchestra began  to play and the curtain opened to reveal a beautiful, rustic set that transported the audience to 19th century France. Each character introduced possessed their own distinct personalities that resonated with the audience.The prop design and costumes alone transported the audience to 19th century France. Les Miserables was directed by Mary Mitchell-Donahue.

My favorite quote comes from the scene when Javert, the inspector played by Michael Mathes ‘11, after a lifetime of looking for Valjean, decides to take his own life: “ To owe life to a malefactor…to be in spite of himself on a level with a fugitive from justice…to betray society in order to be true to his own conscience that all these absurdities…should accumulate on himself. This is what prostrated him.” Javert only sees the law in black and white and is torn by his relationship to Valjean and following the letter of the law. In the end, this confusion is too much for him to handle and he commits suicide.

One character that really stood out for me was Eponine, played by Briana Barber ’12. Eponine was the spoiled child of Mr. and Mrs. Thenardier, the greedy innkeepers. In her adulthood though, her selfish persona changes with the love of another. Barber expertly portrays a character who has experienced several years of heartache and lost. In the scene, “A Heart Full of Love,” Barber’s character Eponine suffers through the agony of knowing the love of her life is interested in the beautiful and wealthy Cosette. Through her singing, the audience could easily empathize with her pain.

The performance of lead Austin Holmes ‘12 was extremely impressive. Jean Valjean, the main character, is followed from his days in captivity in jail for stealing a loaf of bread, to his respected position of mayor of a small town, finally to his life as an adopted father. Holmes’ commitment to his character was outstanding. He acted with a maturity that is not expected of a high school student.

Mary Mitchell-Donahue, director and costume director, selected the fall musical. During the four year time period, she wants to expose students to diverse types of plays and musicals by alternating between modern and traditional. Les Miserables was selected for many reasons. This musical has many great characters, solo parts, and a good balance between males and females roles. After bringing the idea to Mr. Anthony Conto, band director, and Mr. Dominic Traino, vocal director, Donahue learned they were really inspired to take on the challenge.

The pit orchestra, directed by Anthony Conto was the icing of the cake, providing the appropriate atmosphere to the different scenes. Each song melded seamlessly with the actors’ scenes. From the violinist to the percussionists, each member demonstrated an impressive level of professionalism. The music eloquently melded into the scenes and the actor’s songs.

The staging, lightning, and props really brought the play together. Mr. John Shryock, sound designer, headed all of the behind-the-scenes action. The tech crew, dressed in all black, moved quickly to transform scenes.

Les Miserables is based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel of the same name. Passion, humanity, death, and love fills this story as Jean Valjean, a fugitive, escapes captivity from Inspector Javert. Les Miserables is the winner of over 50 international theater awards, including eight 1987 Tony Awards (two of which were for Best Musical and Best Score).

“To love another person is to see the face of God.” Even though this play is shrouded in heartbreak, death, and unfortunate circumstances, the theme is love. With love, these miserable people have found a reason to thrive.