Audiences at Ellsworth High School were royally entertained for eight solid hours last Friday by the high school and middle school show choirs of District VI at the annual Vocal Jazz Festival.
With song and dance, these talented kids transported us to a fabulous itinerary of fanciful and actual places, such as the African savannah, Detroit, a GaelicEmeraldCity, the pleasure domes of Xanadu and New York, N.Y.
They also treated us to some of the best music ever written for the stage with selections from Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Harold Arlen and Barry Gordy’s Motown, as well as some more contemporary contenders from the pop and rock genres. They did so well, in fact, that all 11 District VI school contenders received I or II ratings and will be advancing to the states, which will be held in Millinocket later this month.
Mount Desert Island High School, an annual favorite in this musical competition, revealed once again they are going to be hard to beat with a stunning performance.
MDI High, which had a bar-shattering win last year with their “The Armed Man” performance, is following it up with an equally riveting compilation of rock songs titled “The Machine.” With evocative songs from Pink Floyd, Styx and Metallica, the performers were transformed into a single piece of working machinery, which we watched, in horror and fascination, as it absorbed a loose “cog” into its perfectly calibrated gut. This was only a taste of the full performance to be unleashed at the state competitions.
The freshman show choir, Trojan Trebs, also was terrific with musical numbers from Lorde and dance routines by Mary deKonig.
The unexpected thrills of the evening were delivered by middle schools Trenton and Ellsworth Elementary schools.
First and foremost was Trenton School’s “Matilda.” Most of these young school choirs gradually improve over the years. But Trenton made a great musical leap forward when they brought director Mary deKonig on board. When they all marched into the EHS auditorium in matching school uniforms, everyone thought some mysterious private school had joined the competition. They carried that togetherness and confidence to the stage in both the complex choreography and the song lyrics to such a degree hardly a step or syllable was missed even when they were on scooters!
The age-appropriate show about rebellious students required some serious acting chops, too, and every single child in the choir stayed in character and in remarkably good pitch, most notably Juliana Serano in her touching solo “Quiet.”
Trenton got a well deserved score of I from the judges, as did – no surprise here –Conners Emerson School for the fun and interesting Irish lilt they put on their “Wizard of the Emerald Isles.” It featured jigs, step-dancing and some great solos most notably from the kilted cowardly lion Gilbert Isaac. Also, Eva Bonsey was a darling Dorothy. Carolyn Graeber as Tin Man and Orihanna Kelley as Glinda were outstanding in an impressive field of sopranos.
Pemetic School returned to its roots with “The Lion King.” The second half featured excellent solos by Quentin Pileggi and September Murray and a spine tingling finale “He Lives in Us” really showed what they can do. Any early kinks should be worked out in time for the next round.