You could feel the holiday spirit in the crowded P.S. 233 Langston Hughes School auditorium as young students put on the First Annual Winter Wonderland Showcase, “A Kids Christmas,” Friday evening, December 16th.
The recital included performances by the P.S. 233 Rising Stars Steel Band and Chorus and Genesis Youth. This is the first winter show featuring both youth groups, who have performed at P.S. 233 in the past. More than 20 students in grades 1-5 make up the Rising Stars Steel Band and Chorus, an afterschool program sponsored by the Hebrew Educational Society (H.E.S.). The young students took on different roles, with some opting to play steel pan drums, while others sang, danced or even helped video record the show.
Genesis Youth is a steel pan band program run by Genesis Pan Groove U.S.A., a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching youth the craft of the Caribbean instrument. The members of Genesis Youth performing included some current P.S. 233 students and 11 older alumni from the elementary school, located at 9301 Avenue B.
Genesis Youth opened the night with “Carol of the Bells” on steel pan. Parents and family members, along with teachers and school staff, were then treated to classic tunes such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Little Drummer Boy,” performed by the Rising Stars students. “Canon,” featuring the Rising Stars Chorus, and a steel pan solo by a 4th grader, was a smash success, garnering loud applause and cheers. Other songs included “Jingle Bells,” “Parang Medley” and “Bring Me Love.”
In addition to the festive music, the night also featured a choreographed dance routine by some of the young Rising Stars students. During a break from the live performances, a handful of new student council members were inducted into their roles by Principal Denean Stephens-Spellman. Assemblywoman Monique Chandler-Waterman also attended the showcase, praised the school community and students for the event, saying that “this is what community looks like.”
This event has been months in the making. Sadé Constantine is a 2nd grade teacher at the school who teaches the Rising Stars afterschool program. During their twice a week meeting, Constantine helped the students learn the craft of steel pan, an instrument she has played since age 5. She is also a manager and musical arranger with Genesis Pan Groove U.S.A.
As the M.C. for the night, Constantine helped keep the show running smoothly. She was happy with her students’ playing saying, “As long as they’re enjoying it, I’m good.”
P.S. 233 Assistant Principal Janice Sydney-Smith was one of the school administrators in attendance. Clapping and cheering on her students throughout the hour and a half show, Sydney-Smith felt proud of the youngsters’ performance, especially since some have only been training for a few weeks. “It’s very rewarding to see everything that we’re doing in the afterschool; they’re showcasing that now,” she said. “They worked for it.”