Island show choirs shine at state competitions

Mary Paola sings “White Rabbit” in the Mount Desert Island High School mixed show choir piece “Spirit of My Silence.” PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS DOUGHERTY

Mary Paola sings “White Rabbit” in the Mount Desert Island High School mixed show choir piece “Spirit of My Silence.”

MILLINOCKET — The Mount Desert Island High School mixed show choir took home their fifth consecutive state title Saturday with their collaborative piece “Spirit of My Silence.” That performance also earned musicianship and choreography awards. On Friday, the Trentones of Trenton Elementary School took third place in the middle school competition with “Annie/Newsies remix,” and the two MDI junior high groups who competed earned high ratings.

Middle and high school vocal jazz competitions, otherwise known as show choir, took center stage last week as hundreds of Mount Desert Island kids performed music and dance pieces they’ve worked hard on all winter.

An “Extravaganza” performance from all six island show choirs packed the MDI High School gym Thursday.

New this year was a small group from the Tremont school, who performed selections from “Shrek, the Musical.” Nicole Cardano began work on a show choir for Tremont last year, and she and new music teacher Alison Putnam co-directed this year’s group. The group did not compete in Millinocket, but performers Acadia Metzger, Addison Harper, Grace Horner, Joshua Wedge, Averie White and Evangeline Meister received a standing ovation at the Extravaganza, Putnam said. “We are so thankful for the MDI show choirs welcoming Tremont with open arms.”

The story, musical arrangement and choreography for the MDI Mixed performance “Spirit of My Silence” were created collaboratively by director Bronwyn Kortge, Carl Ferm and Don Grieco, along with cast members Jacob Sanner, Mary Paola, Lucas Wood, Chelsea Schroeder, Kai Fox, Kit Gurin and Pierce Vincenty.

“Every single student in the cast had a hand in creating this amazing work,” Kortge said. “The story follows a character into her dreamscape, where at first she cannot face her inner demons, but after denial and struggle, in the end, she confronts and accepts them and herself.”

Kortge brings a kernel of an idea and a few songs to the group each year, she said, and the finished piece takes shape as they work and “chew on it” together.

The piece had the feel of a modern dance performance, as creative choreography kept the Greek chorus-like ensemble moving to tie the songs together. The ensemble was incredibly “tight” in vocal and movement work. The show includes the “Dance of the Sugerplum Fairies” from “The Nutcracker,” “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, the music of Sufjan Stevens and more.

The judges were impressed by the group’s professionalism of stage presence and vocal technique. “One of the judges commented that he loved to watch our faces, noting that as he scanned the cast during solo sections, he could see that every single cast member was as invested and as passionate in the moment as the soloist,” Kortge said.

Members of Show Stoppers, the Conners Emerson/Mount Desert Elementary School show choir, perform renditions of songs from the 1950s and ‘60s in their show, “Zach and the Ladies.” PHOTO BY LETITIA BALDWIN

Members of Show Stoppers, the Conners Emerson/Mount Desert Elementary School show choir, perform renditions of songs from the 1950s and ‘60s in their show, “Zach and the Ladies.”

Along with the state championship, the group earned awards for outstanding choreography, outstanding musicianship by Lucas Wood and the pit orchestra, led by Pierce Vincenty.

Kortge said they couldn’t have done it without their large team of volunteers, especially Eric Henry, Marilee Marchese, Andrea Howell, Wendy Littlefield, Chris Dougherty and Mary Stanley.

The Trojan Trebs, a group of 15 freshman and 14 sophomores from MDI, were directed by Carl Ferm with help from Joseph Dupuis. Their piece, “Between Two Homes: The Tale of Persephone,” mixed songs from the likes of Adele, Tall Heights and Darlingside to tell the story of the princess from Greek mythology. Ferm wrote a few of the pieces himself and arranged all of them for women’s choir.

Ferm said he was very pleased with the Trebs’ process as well as product. “I was so impressed with the way these girls transformed from the ‘lighter’ side of show choir in middle school. They became very grounded performers.”

Kortge said she’s particularly grateful to the Trebs team, as MDI Mixed graduates more than 20 veterans this year. She’s glad the girls in the group “are learning to think about show choir creatively, which is exactly what I hope all show choir members will be able to do.”

The middle school directors agreed that competition this year was particularly tough. “Middle school show choirs in the state have matured greatly,” Pemetic Elementary show choir Director Ed Michaud said. “The top six groups had only about a three point spread between them.”

Mary deKoning, director of the Trentones of Trenton Elementary, agreed. “I feel our third place finish this year is more of an accomplishment than our second place win last year was, because we were up against far more challenging groups.”

The “Annie/Newsies remix” from the Trentones was created and arranged by deKoning. “My goal was to weave together the lives the orphans and paperboys,” she said. She wanted to highlight the teamwork they rely on in their quest to change their lives for the better.

The Trentones brought great expression and stage presence to the creation, she said. Judges appreciated the choreography, group diction and harmonies. All of the Trenton soloists received I (or gold) ratings.

“I am extremely proud of the whole group for how hard they worked,” deKoning said. “I can’t wait to start on next years show!”

The Pemetic show choir received a I rating for its Brazilian-themed show called “RIO,” based in part on the animated movie about two rare blue macaws. They also incorporated traditional songs by Brazilian composer Jobim, Michaud said. The festival host said they “rocked the house” with their performance.

“Zach and the Ladies” was this year’s contribution from the Show Stoppers, the joint show choir from Conners Emerson and Mount Desert Elementary schools. The show combined 1950s and 60s pop hits such as “It’s My Party,” “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “Mister Sandman” in a prom setting. The onstage, all-student pit band was a big hit. The show earned a II rating and several soloists and groups earned I ratings.

“It was a good experience competing against large schools in Division I with outstanding show choirs,” Director Rebecca Edmonson said. “My students are delightful to work with and I’m very proud of them.”

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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