About 150 Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science students will open their holiday concert with a rendition of “Silent Night” in multiple languages.
The concert will be held in Poindexter Hall on the Mississippi University for Women campus at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday. It is free and open to the public.
The students are all enrolled in the foreign language programs at MSMS. The concert, which will feature songs in German, French, Spanish, Russian and Latin, is just one more way they immerse themselves in the language and culture they’re studying and share that culture with the community.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity,” said senior Haley Hsu, who studies Russian. “I know at my old school we would just sit down and read textbooks all day (in foreign language classes). When you get here, you really get to embrace the culture and live through it.”
The concert is an annual tradition six years in the making, starting when MSMS language teachers Lori Pierce and Margaret Mary Henry decided to combine their teaching with their mutual love of music and put together a concert of traditional songs in the languages they taught — German, French and Latin for Pierce, and Russian and Spanish for Henry.
“Music is a great way to learn language,” Henry said.
This year’s performance will feature multiple soloists and duets, along with accompaniments from piano, trumpet, clarinet, percussion and violin. The MSMS strings club will also play.
“Aside from the language-learning advantage of singing, we like to showcase the musical talents of students,” Henry said.
The songs help students with vocabulary, phrases, memorization and pronunciation, said Pierce, who has her students memorize songs and perform them by themselves for a grade. Learning the songs particularly improves their pronunciation, she said.
“It is both cultural and pedagogical,” she said.
Senior Sam Williams, who studies Russian, appears in this year’s performance as Father Frost, who he describes as the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus. He will walk down the aisle of Poindexter Hall during the performance, giving away empty boxes wrapped like presents, during the song “V lesu rodilas yolochka,” which translates to “In the Frost was Born a Fir Tree,” he and Henry said.
“It can be difficult starting off because it’s an entirely different language and entirely different songs, especially in Russian,” he said. “They’ve got ‘Feliz Navidad’ in Spanish — most English speakers know at least the chorus to that, but with Russian … (the songs are) hard to understand, much less to sing.
“In the end, it ends up being great, and an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world,” he added.
Senior Claudia Viao said she enjoyed being in the concert so much last year that she’s performing again this year even though she no longer studies Spanish. This year she will sing a duet in one of the Spanish lullabies.
“I think it’s really cool just to showcase all the languages that our school offers,” she added. “It’s very unique — something that only MSMS would have.”