Parting ways through a profound Pops concert


EXPRESSING THROUGH DANCING AND SINGING: The Viva Cantar groups’ expressive movements flow in sync with Adele’s “Easy on Me” at the bittersweet Pops concert.

Annie Lee, Viewpoint Editor

Encore! Encore! Encore! As the dimming lights signaled the end of the Vocal Pops concert on May 16, the crowd’s voices filled in the silence with wishes of prolonging the breathtaking experience.

Although the Pops concert is a yearly tradition, this year’s show displayed another level of extraordinary as it marked the end of vocal music director Zach Halop’s 24 years of teaching at Northwood since the school opened in 1999. 

To recognize his impact on IUSD’s performing arts department, Halop was awarded the 1997 IUSD Elementary Music Teacher of the Year, 2006 and 2011 Orange County Music and Arts Vocal Music Teacher of the Year and 2005 and 2014 IUSD Teacher of the Year. As such, the overall sentiment of the performances—all fully choreographed with outfits and costumes—were powerful, purposeful and proud. 

“If you put quality things in for quality people, quality things happen,” Halop said. “This is one of those shows that the people who were there are going to be walking out so happy that they came.”

Halop’s recitation of the monologue from Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and the band Johnny Alibi and the Excuse began the nearly sold-out concert. 

Audiences could easily recognize iconic Disney songs in the show, such as an Aladdin medley that featured powerful solos from seniors Ze Xi Isaac Lee and Sohani Pawan. Performers’ energetic jumps complimented the song’s roaring energy during the upbeat piece “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from “Mulan.” 

Led by Keiko Halop, piano-driven songs such as Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing,” contained infectious enthusiasm from the energetic ensemble, while Adele’s “Easy on Me” presented a gentle, flowing choreography to match the melancholy oozing from performers’ voices. “Fix You” by Coldplay was an especially emotional number, as the megascreens displayed pictures of lost loved ones of the choir and directors.

“My favorite performance is definitely ‘Fix You’ because it’s the most intimate part of the show,” senior June Lee said. “The moment where Viva Cantar comes out behind us and we hold up our phones really hits hard, especially when the people in the audience flash their phone lights back at us and we all get super close to crying, if not actually shedding a few tears.”

Behind the scenes, lighting designers from Disney and the sound technician from Pentatonix helped stimulate every aspect of the audience experience. Performers and audiences alike were also surprised by a secret guest performer, retired Marine Corps musician Joel M. Daniel, who showed off his phenomenal bagpipe talents. 

“I wanted to give the most incredible experience that we can envision, and to make it all come together took about two years of planning,” Halop said. “It’s really exciting for me because I’m doing exactly what I was put on earth to do: make music.”

The Pops concert will forever live in the audieces’ minds, but so will the profound impact of Halop that he has left on Northwood students. Through Halop’s engaging teaching style and fire-burning passion for music, students have not only grown as musicians and performers, but as people as well.  

“At the end of the day, Mr. Halop and Ms. Keiko always reminded us that art is about making genuine connections, whether that be with the audience, our fellow chorus members or ourselves,” senior Melina Tanuwidjaja said. “The Halops also taught me the impact of work ethic and passion through words and actions.”

An official farewell concert for Halop will be held at the Northwood theater on June 10 at 5 p.m. Mark your calendars, not only because guests like soprano superstar Adina Aaron will perform there, but because attending is a way of expressing your thanks to Halop for his special contributions to our music community.