Members of the cast of "Requiem," this year's Mount Desert Island High School mixed show choir production, perform Friday at the Regional Vocal Jazz Festival in Ellsworth. ISLANDER PHOTO BY NAN LINCOLN

MDIHS show choir, strikes gold, again! Island schools shine at Jazz Fest

ELLSWORTH — Once again, Mount Desert Island High School delivered the gold standard in show choir performances at the regional Maine Vocal Jazz Festival, held last Friday in Ellsworth.

Bronwyn Kortge and student Caroline Graber’s adaption of liturgical choral pieces combined with largely student-designed choreography and some thrilling, heart-pounding accompaniment from the pit orchestra, directed by Irene Choi, all came beautifully together in a strange and wondrous “Requiem” about, well, who knows? redemption? Salvation? Anger? Love? They all seemed to be packed into about 15 minutes of stirring song and stunning dance with at least six harmonic and even more choreographic levels.

Adding yet another level was Ivy Sanborn’s haunting solos. This young woman’s voice has such an unusual, ethereal quality — as if it were coming in on a different frequency — she doesn’t seem to put any effort into projecting it above the other singers and orchestra but rather it seems to float above it all.

The judges were clearly impressed, commenting on the stunning visuals, fine vocals and dramatic expression, giving the choir the only gold rating of the competition.

“Requiem” earned a gold award, which means 95-100 points out of 100. “The judges felt that it was visually stunning and very well sung,” Kortge said in an email. “They complimented the pit orchestra, directed by Choi, and the vocal score, which was arranged by Graber. They complimented the originality and expressiveness of the choreography, which has been generated collaboratively by Ashley Graves and other students.” Judges also said the “mourners” (Graves, Sarah Knox and Louise Chaplin) were “stunning” in the beauty and pathos of their choreography and expression.

There will apparently be more to come when all the island and Trenton choirs perform their Show Choir Extravaganza at the high school on March 28 before they go to Lawrence for the finals, March 29 and 30.

The Mount Desert Island High School Trojan Trebles perform at Friday at the Regional Vocal Jazz Festival in Ellsworth. PHOTO COURTESY OF EMILY ELLIS

The Trojan Trebles, directed by Catherine Forthofer and Frank Bachman, also showed great potential in what was clearly just a soupcon of what will be the final performance of their medley of pop and rock tunes and some challenging choreography by Christina Longstreet. While they earned a bronze rating, this is sure to improve with the completed show and some tightening of their vocals and dance moves.

Pemetic and Conners Emerson middle schools both earned silver ratings for their excellent performances of music from “Les Miserables” and a pop medley, respectively.

Ed Michaud’s Pemetic choir demonstrated an astonishing depth of vocal ability with fine solos from, among others, Lylah and Denali Wagstaff (sung in French) and a heartbreakingly lovely rendition of “Bring Him Home” by Sarah Cook. While this music is pretty heavy stuff for middle-schoolers, with songs about war, death and sorrow, the kids seemed to connect with it. They adding some impressive acting to their vocal and dancing skills.

More on the bright side of life was Rebecca Edmondson’s Conner’s Emerson choir singing a fun mash-up of show tunes. There seemed to be a disconnect between the Parisian-themed costumes and backdrop of French posters, and the choice of music, which included no French tunes. But it didn’t really matter as the kids looked darling, singing and dancing with gusto including a terrific little tango turn in “Hernando’s Hideaway” and an especially nice solo from aptly-named Harmony Hopkins who, despite a cold, sang a lovely heartfelt rendition of “The Rose.” Kudos also to Soren Hopkins Goff who provided some well-timed percussion and xylophone backup.

Ellsworth High School earned a silver rating for its razzle-dazzle performance of music from “The Greatest Showman,” as did Ellsworth Middle School for their adorable Muppet medley.

The extravaganza is set for Thursday, March 28, in the MDIHS gym at 6 p.m.

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.

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