Ivy Sanborn of the Mount Desert Island High School mixed show choir. The choir earned first place at the Maine State Vocal Jazz Festival finals this weekend. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS DOUGHERTY

Show choirs triumphant!

MILLINOCKET — Mount Desert Island High School’s Mixed Choir and the combined Conners Emerson and Mount Desert Elementary School Show Stoppers brought home overall first-place trophies in their divisions at the Maine State Vocal Jazz Festival Finals at Stearns High School over the weekend in Millinocket. This is the seventh straight year the MDI Mixed group has earned a first-place trophy — or the top rating in years when no rankings were awarded.

Finn Hansbury of the Conners Emerson and Mount Desert Elementary Show Stoppers earned a one rating and an outstanding soloist award for his excellent rendition of “You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth” at the Maine State Vocal Jazz Festival finals on Friday. PHOTO COURTESY OF REBECCA EDMONDSON

Gold, silver and bronze medals and several outstanding musicianship awards and other honors also were earned by all six of the participating MDI area school choirs.

The middle schools were up first on Friday, with three area schools bringing excellent shows to the event. Pemetic School, directed by Ed Michaud, performed a fierce selection of music from “Chess,” earning a bronze medal in Division II and an outstanding musicianship award for dynamo soloist Carolyn Musson.

The Trenton School Trentones earned a silver medal and overall third place in Division II for their production of music from “Tuck Everlasting.”

According to director Mary deKoning, her intrepid choir gave one of their best performances despite the extra challenges they faced this season.

“The kids worked incredibly hard this year, said deKoning. “They learned the majority of their choreography and a good portion of their vocals back in September to November before I went on maternity leave. And then they worked with two different substitutes until I came back in February to polish the show. So, this is a huge accomplishment for them.”

She said that all three judges consistently mentioned they were impressed with how engaged the students were with their show.

Actually, the three top Division II middle school choirs at the festival earned silver medals and close scores, but it was the Show Stoppers who brought home the first-place trophy, for their performance of “A Little Bit Batty,” a medley of darkly romantic Jim Steinman songs, narrowly besting the Stearns’ home choir. Finn Hansbury earned a 1 rating and an outstanding soloist award for his excellent rendition of “You Took the Words Right out of My Mouth.” Eighth-grader Mia Ray helped earn a special honor for choreography. Also earning 1 ratings for their solo efforts were Claire Sanner, Mia Ray, Molly Dillon, Lily James, Sadie Sullivan, Zoe Boland and Mai Ishimura.

“We had an exceptional group of eighth-graders who were ready for a challenge,” said director Rebecca Edmondson. “This show deals with a more mature subject matter than we usually choose, but the students embraced it and stepped out of their comfort zone, creating a remarkable show.

“What was most important for me,” she said, “was seeing the fun they were having learning the music and choreography. How they pushed each other and collaborated.”

Judge Camille Saucier wrote, “Creative, fun, great costumes and set. Appropriate movement/choreography. Your choir has a great percentage of singers engaging throughout.”

Her comments were gratifying, Edmondson said, “because we took such a big risk with this program. I’m pleased the judges understood and appreciated not only the music, but the story line and irony. The risk paid off!”

Once again, MDIHS’s Mixed Choir amazed the judges with their haunting performance of “The Fire Prince and Ice Maiden,” a sad story of doomed love, based on a Russian folk tale, bringing home both a gold medal and first place overall for Division 1.

The Trojan Trebs, directed by Frank Bachman and Catie Forthofer, earned a Bronze for their “Evolution.”

After the afternoon performances, the Mixed Choir went head-to-head with Hampden Show Choir “Voices Unlimited” in the night finals.

As they have for several years running, MDI came out on top with two judges giving them near perfect scores of 99. They also earned an Outstanding Choreography award and Outstanding Musicianship awards for Ivy Sanborn for her brooding solo “No Roots” and for Bonnie Snyder, Desmond Reifsnyder and Rylee Burns for their riveting trio “Under the Water.”

According to Director Bronwyn Kortge, judges commented on the incredible creativity and originality of the show. Music by Alice Merton, Sufjan Stevens, Verdi, Andy Hull and Robert McDowell and others was arranged by Kortge herself, with students Carolyn Graber and Bonnie Snyder.

The judges all “remarked on the visual beauty of the show,” Kortge said, “spotlighting Marilee Marchese’s gorgeous costumes and Eric Henry and David DesFosses’ stunning sets, Andrea Howell’s makeup design and the way the elements interacted. We got top marks for our choreography and story-telling, programming, transitions, intensity and emotional expression.

“One of the judges said that our final scene of the death of the fire prince and ice maiden and the mourning of the fire and ice communities brought her to tears. Another judge described the performance in a string of adjectives: ‘impressive, stunning, electric, innovative, emotionally powerful.’”

The pit orchestra, led by student Matt Cox, was commended for its excellent performance.

After the afternoon performance, Kortge said, one judge offered some suggestions concerning diction and dynamics, additions the judge felt would have enhanced her experience. “They were great ideas,” Kortge said, “and we worked to add some of those details to the evening presentation. I think it enhanced our performance.

“Most importantly to me,” she said, “is that all the students in our show choir program, Mixed and Trebs both, spoke passionately about what they have learned about themselves through their show choir experiences; spoke about their passion for creativity, music, art and self-expression. These students really do make a show choir ‘family,’ and Frank, Catie and I are very, very privileged and grateful to be a part of this journey with them.”


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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