BAR HARBOR — For the first time, the Mount Desert Island High School Show Choir will perform song selections written entirely by two students when it competes at the Maine Music Educators Association State Vocal Jazz Festival in Millinocket on Saturday, April 2.
MDI High School students Francis Burns and Cedar Ellis have written music for “Dark Night of the Soul,” which the show choir will perform at the festival at Stearns High School.
The MDI Show Choir did not take part in last year’s virtual state festival due to the challenges of arranging virtual rehearsals and creating the production under a strict deadline.
“I think the hardest thing for us last year was to do all of this work, which, conceptually it felt great, except there was no product,” said Bronwyn Kortge, MDI’s choral music and show choir director, who has been assembling the 2021 virtual show choir project to be released in coming months.
Since auditions for “Dark Night of the Soul” in December, the ensemble has been practicing the show, choreographed by high school students Claire Sanner and Mia Ray. Rehearsing this year’s production is the first opportunity the show choir has had to sing synchronously for two and a half years. “We didn’t practice tuning or blending because, for over a year, the only opportunity we had to sing was virtually,” said Kortge.
Typically, a few weeks before the annual state festival is held, a competitive, preliminary district-wide vocal jazz event is also held, but Kortge said that event was waived this year for MDI High School’s district.
Before the pandemic, show choirs in the preliminary district festival would advance to the state festival if they received an adequate score by judges. This year, the state festival, which is normally a two-day competitive event with an evening finals round, will be whittled down to one day of performances where show choirs will not place. Instead, some schools will receive silver or gold performance recognition awards from judges.
“No district festival or night finals round this year has downsides because we will not receive as much important feedback from judges to perform our best,” Kortge said.
The show, which consists of 12 distinct movements, is about 15 minutes long. The show’s music genre is similar in ways to a fusion of rock, choral and orchestral. Though a handful of students have been working with the director on a storyline, Kortge said the production’s plot can be interpreted differently, depending on the observer. Past plot interpretations of the high school’s show choir productions have ranged from school bullying to going through a divorce. Kortge added that the show should ultimately speak to the audience in its own way.
Kortge said that she is lucky to have such energetic and creative students who are dedicated to the process of making a show to perform. “It’s been a joy to work with these students and I am so grateful for them,” Kortge said.
Both show choir and jazz band are scheduled to perform a free community concert at 6:30 p.m. on March 31 in the high school gymnasium.
More information about the state festival can be found on the Maine Music Educators Association Facebook page or at https://mainemmea.org.
Cast: Aidan Fisichella, Alifair Durand McDonnell, Breanna Lunt, Cara Dembowski, Cassie Carter, CassieLyn Willis, Claire Sanner, Dade Hawkins, Dorothy Durgin, Edmund Mays, Elliot Maldonado, Eva Crikelair, Evangeline Meister, Evelyn Hardy, Grace Curry, Julia Ramos, Julianna Lee, Katie Soukup, Katrina Hardy, Ly Dillon, Mai Ishimura, Matthew Wheeler, Mia Eason, Mia Ray, Natalie Rechholtz, Per Lisy, Rex DeMuro, Sabrina Newenham, Savanah Heath, Spencer Clark Lovejoy and Sylvester Mays.
Pit: Corin Baker, Jacob Benson, Francis Burns, Edward Choi, Sabine Costello-Sanders, Cedar Ellis, Ryder Haines, Kaleena Higgins, Gabe Krieg, Ava Lawson, Emily Losquadro, Jacob Lurvey, Shoin Mirzovev, Quentin Pileggi and Turner Simis.
Director: Bronwyn Kortge.
Student Directors and Choreographers: Claire Sanner and Mia Ray.
Student Composers: Cedar Ellis and Francis Burns.
Student Conductor: Edward Choi.
Costumes: Frank Bachman, Marty Ward, David Ward, Claire Sanner, Mia Ray, Alifair Durand McDonnell, Natalie Rechholtz, Katrina Hardy and Katie Soucup.
Hair/make-up: Andrea Howell
Set: Eric Henry and Steven Hudson.
Student Care Committee: Patricia Savoie
Sound Consultant: Michael Remy