PORTSMOUTH — They didn’t have their lead director, but the Portsmouth High School concert and symphonic bands still made a lot of music-lovers happy Thursday night.
Assistant band director Donna Valente took the baton in place of Ted Rausch, whose father died Wednesday.
“We’d like to dedicate tonight’s performance to Mr. Ed Rausch Sr.,” said Ms. Valente in opening the students’ final concert of the year in the PHS auditorium. “Our thoughts, prayers and sympathies go out to the family and friends at this difficult time.”
Immediately following her welcoming remarks, the Flute Ensemble, a student-run group that meets once a week throughout the year, began its program with “Amazing Grace.”
Kyle Wentzel, a senior band student, said the band was grateful to Ms. Valente’s efforts in making sure the show went on as planned.
“Ever since Mr. Rausch called out about the death of his father, she’s been going crazy. She’s really made this concert happen, and she deserves thanks,” Kyle said, adding that chorus director Gael Berberick was also a big help.
The Flute Ensemble was followed by the String Ensemble, an after-school group that started in October. The ensemble is led by Ms. Berberick, a songwriter who composed one of the performed tunes — “Crazy Paws” — for her students.
“Some of them have only been playing for four months,” said Ms. Berberick, noting that upright bass player Zach Taylor just started on that instrument three months ago, while Samantha Kirwin picked up the violin only last November.
Ms. Berberick wasn’t the only Portsmouth resident who wrote one of the songs played Thursday night. PHS senior Jack Grzechowiak directed the Symphonic Band during a performance of his original composition, “The Castle Walls.”
Kyle Wentzel introduced Jack, saying he’s been writing music “since high school.”
As he helped out backstage with the sound, Kyle said his fellow bandmates’ thoughts were with Mr. Rausch.
“Although he says we’re his second family, it’s important for him to be with his real family,” said Kyle, adding that the band knows they have a special director in Mr. Rausch.
“He really cares about what he does and he really tries to make it enjoyable. He makes it more than just a class or an after-school activity.”
Check out more photos from the show below: