The show choir from the Connors Emerson School in Bar Harbor belts out a tune during state competition on Saturday. PHOTO COURTESY OF VICKI KANE

‘Firebird’ earns vocal gold

MILLINOCKET — How the awards are determined at the State Vocal Jazz Festival may have changed this year, but Mount Desert Island High School’s winning ways have not.

This weekend, Bronwyn Kortge’s Mixed Choir took home a gold medal, a near-perfect score and several special honors for their thrilling performance of “The Firebird.”

They also took the prize for choreography, and Thistle Swann received an outstanding musicianship award for her solo work.

The judges especially liked the performance’s originality and use of imagination and said they were impressed by the degree of difficulty.

Members of the Trenton Elementary School show choir group, the Trentones. ISLANDER PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

“The attention to every possible detail of the performance, down to every costume, every face, every gesture and every note, results in an incredibly outstanding performance,” one judge wrote.

The student pit orchestra, led by Matthew Cox, also was applauded for their dynamic performance.

“As their coach, I find myself the lucky one,” said Kortge. “It’s not possible to separate the part of the score that Kai Fox arranged from the part that I arranged, or to identify the parts of the show that Kai, Mary Paola and Chelsea Schroeder choreographed from the parts that Don Greico and I contributed,” she said.

“This has truly been a wonderful artistic team, and the result was undeniably amazing. It was an incredibly moving weekend for us all, and I am so happy to have had this opportunity to work with these amazing people.”

Connors Emerson

Also taking home a medal from Millinocket was Rebecca Edmonson’s Conners Emerson Showstoppers, which earned silver for their fun and jazzy “Star Trek”-themed medley, as well as outstanding awards for their pit orchestra of Edward Choi on piano, Sabine Costello-Sanders on sax and Jacob Lurvey’s standing bass. Edmondson said she was thrilled by her choir’s performance, which she said peaked Friday night, and by their general exemplary conduct at the festival.


Mary DeKoning’s Trentones also medaled with bronze for their Michael Jackson-themed medley, which the judges praised for the choreography, harmonies and theme of peace.


Pemetic Elementary School, surprisingly, did not medal with their fine performance of “Into the Woods,” but they did take home an honorable mention, a top rating for all their soloists and special recognition for soloists Steven Izenour and Denali Wagstaff. Judge’s also enjoyed the excellent storytelling of this performance.

MDI High Trebles

MDI’s other high school choir, the Trebles, also received an honorable mention for their medley based on the theme “home.”

The weekend was not without some controversy surrounding the new format for determining awards. Rather than trophies being handed out for first, second and third places, gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded based on scores, rather than placement. For example, in Division 1, both MDI and Hamden received gold medals because both choirs received scores of 95-100. (MDI earned two 98s and a 99 from judges.)

In Division 2, only Orono High School received gold, but Ellsworth High School’s crowd-pleasing performance of “Hamilton” would have been a top medal contender had they not intentionally gone 23 seconds over the time limit. According to director Rebecca Wright, she and her students felt the incentive for performing the full show they had prepared without editing it to fit the time allowance was more compelling than making the evening showcase this year.

Both she and several other coaches have urged fellow music educators to attend the May meeting of the Maine Music Educators Association to revisit and revamp the event to make it work better as either a pure noncompetitive festival or return to a competition format.


Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.