A “Testimony” To Bullying: An Audrey Award Article

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BY ABIGAIL FRISOLI

Photo Editor

On Nov. 1, Sacred Heart’s Soprano-Alto-Tenor-Bass (SATB) Chamber Choir, 4 Heart Harmony, put on its annual Anti-Bullying concert, this year titled “Testimony.” The timing of this concert is fitting, as October was National Bullying Prevention Month.

Junior Justyna Jablonska opened the concert with a speech, describing “Testimony” as “a concert created for students by students.”

The concert consisted of a repertoire of a variety of genres. There were 12 songs performed in all, ranging from musical theater to pop to classical. Although it was impressive, the variety of music proved to be a challenge in rehearsals.

“The hardest part about preparing for this concert was learning how to change the way my voice sounds in specific songs quickly due to the many different styles of music we are performing,” Jablonska said.

Although the music consisted of a variety of styles, no song felt out of place. Besides completely memorizing their music, as this was the first Anti-Bullying concert completely off-book, the choir also had individual speaking lines throughout the concert to memorize. These lines were created in order to provide context and seamlessly transition from one song to the next, and were another first for the Anti-Bullying concert.

Thomas Cuffari, Assistant Director of the Choral Program and Director of 4 Heart Harmony, enlisted the help of Patricia Noonan to create a script that encompassed the voices of each member of the choir so that their testimonies, as the title of the concert suggests, could be heard. The 29 members each filled out surveys and participated in workshops in order for Noonan to incorporate their exact words and thoughts into the script.

“I was really impressed with your insights and your willingness to write honestly about your experiences,” Noonan wrote to the choir while rehearsals were still in motion. “This . . . draft incorporates the ideas, words, and song suggestions you shared – it really is a script created by you.”

4 Heart Harmony also incorporated its members’ voices into the concert through videos, which was another first for the concert. During the song “Testimony,” which was written by Stephen Schwartz, composer of Wicked, videos played featuring the students holding pieces of paper with negative and positive words about themselves written down.

“The impact I hope the video has on the audience is for it to bring back years of memories from their childhood growing up to when they’ve felt . . . oppressed or judged and I hope they take away (from the concert) bullying in its full definition and share it with others around the community,” said sophomore Ben Bello.

During the concert, a video was also played in which some students in 4 Heart Harmony shared what they would tell their younger selves.

“What I would say to my former self is to not be afraid to do the things that you love,” junior Andrew Thomas said in the video. “The things that you love might be seen by other people as weird or out of the ordinary, but those are the things that make you special and make you important.”

NBA alum and current spokesperson for the Community Foundation of Middlesex County and the state of Connecticut Donny Marshall was a guest speaker at the concert. Marshall talked of his experiences with bullying and discovering who he was while growing up in Seattle.

The finale of the concert was a song called “Hold On,” from the musical “The Secret Garden.” It was the song Bello was looking forward to most of all.

“I feel that everyone has the privilege to stand next to someone else and stand up for themselves to prevent bullying, allowing them an opportunity to make a difference in the world,” he said.

SHU Choir’s next performance will be “A Benefit Concert for Nourish Bridgeport: Sgt. Pepper Reimagined,” which will take place Nov. 22 and 23. This concert will feature the SHUpermen, also directed by Cuffari.

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