Palatine High School Brass Ensemble plays at White House

 
By Eileen O. Daday
Updated 12/13/2010 5:25 PM
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  • The Palatine High School Brass Ensemble performs Saturday at the White House Holiday Open House: clockwise from left, Mitchell Zielinski, trumpet; Iain Shipton, trumpet; Vincent Cook, French horn; Peter Haney, French horn; Jim Hargrove, trombone; Tommy Laabs, trombone; Michael Hickey, tuba; and Raeleen Horn, conductor.

    The Palatine High School Brass Ensemble performs Saturday at the White House Holiday Open House: clockwise from left, Mitchell Zielinski, trumpet; Iain Shipton, trumpet; Vincent Cook, French horn; Peter Haney, French horn; Jim Hargrove, trombone; Tommy Laabs, trombone; Michael Hickey, tuba; and Raeleen Horn, conductor. Courtesy John Haney

  • The Palatine High School Brass Ensemble includes, front row left to right, Mitchell Zielinski, trumpet; Iain Shipton, trumpet; Peter Haney, French horn; Vincent Cook, French horn; back row left to right, Tommy Laabs, trombone; Jim Hargrove, trombone; Michael Hickey, tuba; and Raeleen Horn, conductor.

    The Palatine High School Brass Ensemble includes, front row left to right, Mitchell Zielinski, trumpet; Iain Shipton, trumpet; Peter Haney, French horn; Vincent Cook, French horn; back row left to right, Tommy Laabs, trombone; Jim Hargrove, trombone; Michael Hickey, tuba; and Raeleen Horn, conductor. Courtesy District 211

  • The Palatine High School Brass Ensemble performs Saturday, Dec. 11, at the White House Holiday Open House.

    The Palatine High School Brass Ensemble performs Saturday, Dec. 11, at the White House Holiday Open House. Courtesy John Haney

White House gigs seem to be turning into an annual event at Palatine High School.

Last year, the concert choir performed there, and on Saturday, the Palatine High School Brass Ensemble played at one of the holiday open house events, held for White House staff members and their families.

"It was really cool to be playing in the actual White House," says senior French horn player Peter Haney of Palatine. "I thought we'd be playing in one of the wings or something."

Nope. Dressed in their formal black tuxedos with red holiday ties, the principal brass players from Palatine's symphonic band played a two-hour set in one of the White House rooms, located near the stairs to the residence.

The elegant room had a red theme in its decorating and featured natural branches displayed and illuminated in classical styled white urns showcased around the room.

Guests, estimated to be nearly 1,000, took in their performance of holiday carols played in a traditional arrangement for brass ensembles, as they toured the White House rooms and their distinctive holiday decorations.

"People filmed us and took pictures," said junior trumpeter Iain Shipton of Palatine. "Some people stayed for up to an hour just listening to us."

In all, seven students made up the ensemble, including junior Michael Hickey on tuba, senior Jim Hargrove and junior Tommy Laabs on trombone, junior Vincent Cook on French horn, and junior Mitchell Zielinski on trumpet.

"We all knew the music well, but we had to concentrate on the little details to make the concert great," Shipton said, "like (sound) dynamics, and not playing so loud that we would blast people out."

The room, with its marble floors and columns, offered great acoustics, he said, but it also heightened the sound, causing the notes to echo through much of the White House.

"That was our biggest concern," Shipton adds. "We didn't want it to echo."

Palatine's director of bands, Raeleen Horn, now in her 31st year at the school, promoted the brass ensemble for the gig, after the choir had to turn down a return invitation because of another commitment. The choir instead leaves Dec. 26 to perform on a four-day Bahamas cruise.

Steve Sivak, choral director, suggested the brass ensemble as an alternative when he was contacted by the White House Visitors' Center, and Horn followed up the next day to make the case.

"It was a great opportunity for the kids," says Horn, whose bands have played for Clint Eastwood, in his film "Flags of Our Fathers," and with Dennis Quaid, in the movie "The Express," among other high visibility gigs. "It was heartfelt and patriotic and just a thrilling experience."

As the group wasn't paid for the appearance, Horn paid most of the cost of the trip out of her own pocket, with each student chipping in $100. None of the money came from the music department budget.

After the teens finished up their set, they were given security clearance to tour the White House rooms and see all of the decorations. They followed up their show by seeing the National Symphony Orchestra perform at the Kennedy Center, featuring guest soloist Marvin Hamlisch.