Q&A w/ Kevin McDonald and two high school chorus members
On December 29-30, the Boston Pops will perform the score to the Christmas classic movie Home Alone in sync with the film on screen at Symphony Hall. The Pops will be joined in the performance by members of the Wellesley High School chorus. DigBoston spoke with Kevin McDonald, the director of the Wellesley chorus, and two of his students, Lindsay Heffernan and Kevin Mahoney.
How did Wellesley High School get to perform with the Pops?
McDonald: This actually has to go back about five years. This is our second time doing this project with the Boston Pops. The Boston Pops reached out to us put us through a little bit of an audition setting five years ago. And needless to say, they felt that we were up to speed with what the Boston Pops were looking for. Now, five years down the road, the Boston Pops Orchestra has brought this project back, and they came back to us and asked if we wanted to do it one more time with them. And the rest is history.
How do you ensure a standard of singing and professionalism each year in the chorus?
Mahoney: Well, I think that every year the underclassmen look up to the seniors and juniors, and they see the amount of effort the amount of talent that they have. And each year, you see that talent, and then you see their mistakes. You try to keep striving to be better than the year ahead of you. So that each time it turns over, you take the lessons that you’ve learned, and they just compile. And so our program just keeps getting better and better.
Lindsay and Kevin, have you guys seen the movie and if so, what do you think of it?
Heffernan: Growing up, I watched Home Alone every Christmas with my family. So I’ve seen it 17 times now. But after learning the music and working so hard on it, and spending so many hours with the score, I think that watching the movie is so different, because you just focus on different things. Obviously, when you’re younger, you just focus on the plot and the characters, but actually listening to the music in the background and how it changes based on what the characters are saying, and how the theme changes is really interesting.
What is the preparation for an event like this?
McDonald: What makes Home Alone different than anything we do is that you are so bound to what’s happening in the movie. I think it’s important that they understand the plot of the movie, where they’re singing, why they’re singing, and how they’re singing it. Normally, when you look at a piece of music, and you see a dynamic change from pianissimo to fortissimo or soft to loud, we just do it because it’s written on the page. Now, we understand that it’s because the first part of the piece is when Kevin McAllister is outside of the church and the second part of the piece is when he’s inside the church.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
McDonald: I think I think the biggest thing that I would say is it’s such an honor. Five years ago, we described it to the students as a once in a lifetime opportunity. To have an opportunity to do it for a second time as a teacher and bring a whole new collection of students to the experience is such an honor and a privilege. It’s certainly something that, while it speaks well to the level of professionalism that our students have attained, it’s also very humbling to have these types of opportunities and we’re very grateful for them.
HOME ALONE WITH ORCHESTRA. 12.29 & 12.30 AT SYMPHONY HALL, 301 MASS AVE., BOSTON. BSO.ORG