• Important Dates -->
  • 5/17: Rocky awards
  • 5/20: All School Awards (virtual)
  • 5/22: Region Track Champs
  • 5/23: Band Concert
  • 5/28: Orchestra Concert
  • 5/29: Chorus Concert
  • 6/4: Miscast Caberet
  • 6/6: Capstone Gala
The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


Melodies of Emotion: Chorus Performs Pre-Assessment Concert

On March 4, Rock Ridge Sings and Stone Hill Middle School choirs came together for a successful pre-assessment concert to practice for their upcoming District Choral Assessments.
Diya Chand
Standing center stage, senior Ananya Akula conducts the Phoenix Chorale. “[Conducting and teaching] is really fun,” Akula said. “Music education is what I want to do.” On the day of the choir assessment, Akula found out that she received the President’s Music Scholarship – a full ride to the University of Miami Frost School of Music.

Excitement, uneasiness, and even more set in as Rock Ridge Sings prepared for their pre-assessment concert. Assessment is an annual event where students visit a school in the county to sing for a panel of judges who then give them a rating. The also-annual pre-assessment concert serves as a practice for assessment,  an opportunity for students to perform for a guest adjudicator who scores them using the official rubric, and also provides suggestions on how to improve before the actual assessment.

One choir first had an after-school practice, and then sat and talked in the choir room, later rushing to get changed into their concert red and black uniforms, as students from other choirs also came in. Meanwhile, the Stone Hill Chorus students practiced in the library, preparing for their guest performance on the Rock Ridge stage. 

By 7:15 p.m., the auditorium lights dimmed and the all-female and predominantly freshman Cantus Avem choir stood ready on the risers. They first performed “Adiemus” by Karl Jenkins, a song in the genre of “world music.”  According to Jenkins, “Adiemus” is a made-up word, but it just so happens to sound like the Latin “accedemus” meaning  “we will draw near.” The lyrics are also all made-up syllables put together in a way similar to scatting in jazz.

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Next, Cantus Avem performed “Clear Water” by Robert Hugh, a song about the flow of the sea. The lyrics of this song draw from “Sea-Fever” by 19th century British poet John Masefield and “The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls” by 19th-century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

(Left to right) Freshman Megan Marr and sophomore Zoe Fyne-Okorie sing onstage as part of the Cantus Avem choir. (Sydney Nguyen)

Afterward, the Stone Hill All-Star Choir ( the Stone Hill Eighth Grade Chorus), a club that meets after school, took the stage. To introduce the group, director Peter Uhlir told the audience that if the alto section looked smaller than normal, it was because five students were sick that day. “One student even came with a mask on saying, ‘I have a light fever. I want to sing!’ I’m like, ‘No,’” Uhlir said. “So, they are absolutely dedicated, and they are wonderful students, and they are doing an absolutely outstanding job, and I’m so proud of them.”

They first sang “Fill Your Life With Music” by Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse, also known as “Musica Dei” and featuring both Latin and English lyrics. Second, they performed “Benedictus” by Brian Lewis, which was entirely in Latin. The lyrics, which come from Matthew 21:9 in the Christian Bible, translate to “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

Third to perform was Rock Ridge Sings’ Phoenix Chorale, which is composed of sophomore-and-up singers. This group combines Vox Femina, the all-female choir, and Voces Virilis, the all-male choir. They performed “De Profundis” arranged by Russell Robinson. From Latin, the first line of the song, “De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine” translates to “Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord,” and the rest of the song features both Latin and English lines from Psalm 130.

After their first song, the Phoenix Chorale also sang “Aquí Te Amo” by Bruce Tippette. The lyrics are entirely in Spanish and come from the poem of the same name by Chilean poet, diplomat, and Nobel-Prize-winner Pablo Neruda. “‘Aqui Te Amo’ is basically about love,” senior Ayush Marwaha said. “I like it because it just has a good meaning, and it’s kind of like a romance [song]. When you’re singing it, you can bring your facial expressions into it to make it better.”

This idea of emotion as part of singing was also emphasized by sophomore David Cheong. “[I like singing because it] helps you express your feelings, and you get to make new friends,” Cheong said. “[To prepare for assessment coming up, I’ll] probably practice with my friends who are on my part.”

During practice, choir teacher Jordan Markwood led and directed all the Rock Ridge groups, except for one. For “Aquí Te Amo,” senior Ananya Akula took on this role, becoming Rock Ridge’s first assessment student director ever. It was a role that required much planning.

“For every piece that I direct, I create a two-month lesson plan,” Akula said. “I teach for about 20 to 30 minutes each block. I’m a [teacher’s assistant] for the Voces Virilis Choir, the men’s choir. But I’ve also worked with our Chamber choir and Vox Femina. We work on solfege, musicality, [and] the emotional expression part of it, like physical presence.”

While not yet fully committed, Akula is planning on attending the University of Miami Frost School of Music next year to pursue a degree in Music Education with double minors in Business and Education. Two days after she found out her acceptance to Frost, choir director Jordan Markwood posted a congratulatory and reflective message on his Instagram with the tag #proudteacher. “[Ananya Akula], you are going to do amazing things, and I can’t wait to follow your journey!” Markwood wrote.

(Left to right): Sophomore Angel Labosette and seniors Ayush Marwaha and James Madamba sing with the Phoenix Chorale. Students have been practicing their songs together since late December and practicing sight reading since the beginning of the year, all for the assessment. “We’ve been practicing in class, and we had an after-school rehearsal which is right before our concert,” Marwaha said. “We’ve just been practicing day in and day out.” (Sydney Nguyen)

Finally, the Rock Ridge Chamber Choir — the school’s sophomore-and-up, audition-only, and most advanced group — performed. First, they sang “Túrót Ëszik A Cigány” by Zoltán Kodály, loosely meaning “The Gypsy Eats Cottage Cheese” or “See the Gypsy.” The lyrics come from a traditional Hungarian song. After that, they also performed “By Night” by Elaine Hagenberg, which features lyrics from the 1897 poem of the same name by American writer Harriet Prescott Spofford.

Finally, to conclude the concert, the Chamber Choir did an onstage sight reading demonstration. As part of assessment, students are given two minutes to look over a song they’ve never seen before. Then, they perform the piece. If they are satisfied, they can be done, but if not, they can ask for another two minutes, after which they will perform again. Then, they will be judged and given a rating. Sight reading is normally done in a private room, but for the pre-assessment concert, the Chamber Choir showcased the process onstage for parents to see.

(Left to right) Sophomores Pranathi Purushothamaiah, Laura Adams, Shritha Khandavalli, and Neha Naga Balaji smile after successfully completing their onstage sight reading demonstration. “For today’s [sight reading piece], I think we did pretty good,” Chamber Choir singer junior Dhanya Babu said. “Especially during the second time, because we realized what our mistakes were, and then we were able to fix them as a group.” (Sydney Nguyen)
Overall, Rock Ridge Sings had a successful pre-assessment concert, albeit not without its own mistakes. “[My performance] was alright,” Cheong said. “I could have done better, of course. Anybody could have done better. Every singer strives to be perfect, and perfect is not always achievable.”

Nonetheless, the singers had the experience to prepare them for their official District Choral Assessments the following week. The Stone Hill Chorus performed at Sterling Middle School on March 13. And the three Rock Ridge groups performed at Briar Woods High School on March 15 and 16, all earning the highest rating of “Superior.” With all three top performing ensembles in band, orchestra, and choir earning a superior at their respective assessments, Rock Ridge is now a VMEA Blue Ribbon Award School.

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About the Contributors
Diya Chand
Diya Chand, Staff Writer
Diya Chand is a senior this year, and a new staff writer to The Blaze. Her time in the Art and Lit Mag club here at Rock Ridge helped lead her to Newspaper. Now, she is looking forward to taking pictures, interviewing, and improving her graphic design. Diya also has interests in the medical field, hoping to join the Red Cross Club, potentially train to be an EMT, and maybe pursue veterinary science or dentistry. This year, Diya is looking forward to Capstone at the Loudoun County Animal Shelter. On any day, you can find her at Rock Ridge or at the Academies of Loudoun in the Academy of Science pathway. There, she’s a member of the STEM4Kids club. Outside of school, though, you can find her drawing, watching Netflix, or reading interesting research articles (one of which was about roundworms being able to detect cancer in dog pee).
Sydney Nguyen
Sydney Nguyen, Design Editor
Sydney Nguyen is a senior and the Design Editor for The Blaze. While creating and designing spreads for the newspaper is one of Sydney’s favorite parts, they also enjoy writing articles. This year, Syd is most looking forward to AP Literature. In the coming year, Sydney plans to go to college and major in computer science while still continuing her hobbies of journalism and graphic design. Sydney especially enjoys the Art and Literature Club and being in the marching band at Rock Ridge as a top bass and saxophone player. Sydney’s favorite activities to do in their free time include drawing, rollerblading, scootering, and biking with their family.

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