Photo: Pictured in front from left are Jyllian Norman, Lavani Gandee, Gillian Connors, Chase Burdick, James Kawasaki, Sophie Abraham, Luke Wang, Travis Henry and Madison Burgess. In the second row from left are Ashlee Edge, Jocelyn Stone, Laken Faulstick, Laykin Milton, Katie Fritter, Juniper Du and Aidan O’Hare. Shown in back from left are Ethan Wheeler, Kayden Campbell, Laken Franke, Olivia Albrecht and Faith Cianelli.

Wheeling Park High School students will continue a beautiful holiday tradition of musical excellence this weekend with three performances of the beloved Festival of Sound.

Wheeling Park High School and C.A. House Music will present the 28th annual Festival of Sound at the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center. The shows will be held at 7p.m. on Dec. 16 and 17, and the final performance will be held at 2 p.m. on Dec. 18.

Ensembles performing include the concert band, jazz ensemble, symphonic winds and steel drum band. The Red and Blue Orchestras, along with the concert choir, Young Patriots, Voices of Freedom and men’s and women’s ensembles will also appear during the show.

Portions of the performance will incorporate more than 300 musicians at once in what is called the Patriot Ensemble. Members of the 42-time state champion Wheeling Park Speech and Debate Team will serve as masters of ceremony.

Wheeling Park High School Choral Director Joyce Jingle said Festival of Sound continues to be so successful because of the dedication of the students taking part in the event. She said the students are exceptionally talented, but their pride and appreciation for the performances makes it much more than a typical school concert.

“They are so motivated,” Jingle said. “They are invested in the tradition of Festival of Sound. They are well aware of that tradition of excellence, and they want to continue to make it all it can be. They take so much pride in it. They find Festival of Sound to be one of the most fun and exciting activities of each year.”

Jingle said another reason for the success of Festival of Sound is the years of experience of Park’s music directors. She said Patriot strings teacher Ben Podolski has been involved in the event since its inception, and choir teacher Christie Greenwood has been a part of the festival for nearly a decade. Jingle said the directors work together to make the event outstanding, and the versatility of the students also adds to the performances.

“The collaboration between directors is so important,” she said. “They work with their own students, and then we come together as a team to put it all together. There are students in more than one ensemble – strings, steel band, and then they will sing with the choir. It’s such an exceptional effort.”

Festival of Sound has moments that audiences have come to know and love such as the “Hallelujah Chorus” and a visit from Santa Claus, and those will continue to be a part of the shows. However, Jingle said Festival of Sound directors include a new twist each year, and this year’s performances will have some new touches.

“We’ve maintained some traditions, but we’re going to add some new and fun things as well,” she said. “There will be a new special guest character this year, and we have some new ideas here and there. Wheeling Park Band Director Jason Birch’s expertise in percussion has added a new element, and he is using his specialty to add excitement to the whole performance. In choir there are a few great soloists, and we have a big spiritual number that will close the first half. There will definitely be surprises the audiences will enjoy.”

Jingle thanked C.A. House Music for its contributions to Festival of Sound, and she also thanked the many sponsors in the community. She said Wheeling Park High School and Festival of Sound performers and directors are also grateful for those who attend Festival of Sound each and every year.

Podolski and former Wheeling Park music teachers Pat and Leslie Garrett created Festival of Sound in 1994, and the first edition of the concert was held in the Patriot gymnasium. From there it was held in the Capitol Theatre and WesBanco Arena before finding its permanent home in the J.B. Chambers Performing Arts Center. Podolski said he is proud to have been a part of Festival of Sound in each of its 28 years, and he is looking forward to another excellent series of performances. Podolski said he is excited to join the Patriot students in entertaining the dedicated and enthusiastic audiences, and he is excited to perform a particular song for the 25th consecutive year of Festival of Sound.

"We hope everyone is ready to join us once again for the Festival of Sound and the 25th anniversary presentation of Handel's ‘Hallelujah Chorus Encore,’” he said. “Through the years we have performed at the Capitol, then Wesbanco Arena, and now here at the Performing Arts Center. It's become an amazing tradition of wonderful music. The students look forward to it, and we hope you do too."