By Kaitlin Aquino
Maestro Carlo Ponti from Italy and Los Angeles Virtuosi Orchestra took to the stage with Arcadia Choral Society and California’s oldest show choir—Arcadia High’s Chanteurs—and thrilled audiences at the Arcadia Performing Arts Center.
It was the first time in Chanteurs show choir history [that they] performed with a professional orchestra and a full-scale classical piece – in Latin.
The Samuel Barber, Gustav Holst, and Mozart repertoire “is musically demanding” said Carlo Ponti. The 41-piece orchestra breathed new passion into Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” Holst’s “St. Paul’s Suite” was intricately crafted. Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” was triumphant with the combined force of 55-choir members. Tenor soloist Dr. Stephen Pu delivered with impressive gravitas. Italian soprano Elisabetta Russo’s sparkling bel canto expertly placed each note. Mezzo-soprano Erin Alford mesmerized with her clear tone. Ray Buffer delighted the audience with his bass lyricism.
Audience members cheered after Ponti’s wink and nod into the mic of “Not bad, huh?” as he welcomed the rousing round of applause.
At the red carpet with her daughter, Arcadia Mayor Pro Tem April Verlato said, “It’s amazing that this quality is right here in Arcadia.”
“The Arcadia Choral Society appreciated this special opportunity to work with Carlo Ponti and Dr. Pu,” said director Sam Sun.
Carlo Ponti is son of Sophia Loren and director Carlo Ponti, Sr. Guests came from Newport Beach, Malibu, and even producers and talent from feature films. This initial draw transformed into appreciation for quality programming and interest in learning more about the choir program.
“Choir enrollment in schools has been declining,” said Arcadia High Vocal Music Director Dr. Stephen Pu. “Last year, a music group was cut for the first time in the high school’s history and that was our all-female vocal ensemble.”
Pot holes in choir education make it hard to increase enrollment. Out of three middle schools, only one offers choir. K-5 choir is void. This year, orchestra and band were integrated in fourth and fifth grades. This is compared to K-8 arts education at Duarte Unified, and K-5 at Monrovia Unified launched by donors.
“State funding is not sufficient to support all the programs that Arcadia students deserve,” said Arcadia Performing Arts Foundation Executive Director Maki Hsieh. “Making arts excellence accessible for every child is a pillar of our foundation.”
Integrating Arcadia students with professionals is another pillar of the Arcadia Performing Arts Foundation, the fundraising organization for arts in schools. “This LAV concert is also our Fall Concert which has never been our biggest fundraiser,” said Dr. Pu. “Hopefully seeing students perform with professionals will inspire parents to play a greater role in the program and school.”
This year, performance uniforms for boys needed to be replaced. Chanteurs also invites L.A. Opera professionals to work with them and perform together on-campus. “Thanks to the Arcadia Performing Arts Foundation and Carlo Ponti, Chanteurs can continue our L.A. Opera collaboration and replace uniforms,” said Dr. Pu. “This is the most that our Fall Concert has ever raised. It’s a new record.”