Pops Concert brings 2000s back with flair

From gripping solos to high-energy a capella, the Palo Alto High School Choir wowed a packed Performing Arts Center at the annual Pops Concert on Thursday and Friday.

This year’s performance, following the theme of “2000s Party in the PAC,” featured a variety of 2000s anthems including classics from Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and Miley Cyrus.

The show was split into two acts, each of which incorporated over 15 numbers. One of the highlights of the night was a powerful rendition of Alicia Keys’ “No One” from seniors Laviena Pelesikoti and Maya Rollerson.

“I really liked what Lavi and Maya Rollerson sang,” senior Kamala Varadarajan said. “They were singing their hearts out.”

Rollerson said she was pleased with their performance despite the difficulty of finding time to rehearse.

“Preparation was very hard because we had to figure out times to meet up,” Rollerson said. “It went well. People say it was good.”

The solos and duets were interspersed with playful group performances, from the Folk Yes a capella group’s sassy take on Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” to the grand finale: Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.”

“All the performers seemed so dedicated to their music,” Varadarajan said. “I specifically liked the Folk Yes a capella group.”

The show also included an impromptu duet of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” from choir teachers Michael Najar and Brittney Kerby. The penultimate song of the evening was a flawless execution of Beyoncé’s “Listen” by junior Jana Phillips that brought many members of the audience to their feet, and the concert ended with the entire Festival Choir singing “Party in the U.S.A.”

The Pops Concert was several months in the making, according to Phillips. In addition to Najar and Kerby’s help during preparation for the concert, all performers this year also received professional training from Deke Sharon, the music director of the Pitch Perfect film series.

“He [Sharon] is known as ‘the god of a capella’ and he’s been working with local a capella groups such as Heartbeats, Heartbreakers, [and] Vikapella, among others,” Phillips said.

As members of the Vikings’ choir groups rehearse, a capella composer and director Deke Sharon tweaks their vocal techniques and stage choreography based on his extensive experience with musical arrangement. Known as a pioneer of contemporary a capella style, Sharon has worked with numerous professional artists, including the cast of the Pitch Perfect movie series. Photo: Eric Yap

According to junior Aaron Cacho, who performed The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” with the Vikapella group, Sharon’s mentorship has helped choir students improve significantly in a short period of time.

“Deke has been great because within a few minutes, every group that has gone with him has sounded ten times better than before,” Cacho said. “He has told us tips that he gives to professional a capella groups and it really helps with our performance and the way we project ourselves on stage.”

Phillips shared this sentiment.

“He [Sharon] has been helping us during class times, going over our songs and arrangements,” Phillips said.  “He gave many great tips in general about how to perform vocals better and be more comfortable on stage.”

The Vikings will next perform at the Golden State Spectrum on March 8.