The Mount Desert Island High School Mixed Choir’s Nordic-inspired performance will move on to state competition in Millinocket. The group earned the highest score among all the show choirs that performed at the district festival in Ellsworth. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS DOUGHERTY

Viking fable scores high at show choir fest: All MDI schools advance to states

ELLSWORTH — Mount Desert Island High School’s show choir came away with the high score of the day at the District Vocal Jazz Festival, held at Ellsworth High school last Tuesday. Its Mixed Choir earned a near perfect score of 98 out of a possible 100 for its mesmerizing, original concept based on the Nordic myth about a magic Firebird.

Close behind with a score of 95 was Ellsworth High School’s show-stopping performance of music from the hit Broadway show “Hamilton.”

All the participating District 6 high schools and middle schools will advance, with one or two ratings. They will appear in the state competition in Millinocket, March 31 and April 1.

As usual, MDI director Bronwyn Kortge presented only a tantalizing taste of what her Mixed Choir will bring to the states, but it was enough to thrill the audience and impress judges Cami Carter and George Redmund.

Costumed by Marilee Marchese in fur and earth-toned tunics with Viking-like painted faces and braided hair, the choir performed a heart-pounding mash-up of music that ranged from classic rock to Finnish folk songs. The performance included an original composition by MDI High School senior Kai Fox.

As they sang the complex harmonies and rhythms with pitch-perfect precision, the choir acted out the “Firebird” story in a stunning dance choreographed by Kortge and Don Grieco.

The intriguing start of that story involved a lovely young village girl (Thistle Swann) who lured a magical firebird (a gorgeously costumed Mary Paola) with her ululating calls. The charmed bird offers the girl one of its flaming feathers, and all seems well until a young man from the village decides he must have one of the prized feathers for himself. He steals another from the bird. Things were looking bad for all involved when the performance ended, leaving everyone wanting more.

Local audiences will get their wish and see how the story plays out at the annual MDIHS Show Choir Extravaganza, set for Thursday, March 30, at 6 p.m. where all MDI and Trenton schools will perform their finished works before traveling to Millinocket.

The judges gave high marks to all the soloists of “Firebird,” singling out for special praise Teddy Geary’s thrumming bass delivery of Räven by the Swedish folk band Hedningarna and Thistle Swann’s keening rendition of an ancient Scandinavian music form called “kulning,” which, according to Kortge, is still used today to call livestock. They also praised Swann’s come-hither dance duet with Paola’s skittish firebird.

Conners Emerson and Pemetic schools’ show choirs also received high scores and one ratings from the judges.

Rebecca Edmondson of Conners Emerson School cobbled together a clever medley of classic pop songs for a Star Trek-themed performance. They also constructed terrific set pieces and costumes representing the Star Ship Enterprise’s control room, iconic crew uniforms and a couple of adorable aliens to boot. Finn Hansbury was terrific singing “Fly Me to the Moon,” while the fetching trio of Molly Collins, Sadie Sullivan and Mia Ray performed the heck out of “Blue Moon.” The other soloists, Maggie Murray, Molly Dillon, Lily James and Maddie Buzzell, all had fine solo turns, and the full choir earned high praise for “the great choral sound and blend” and “excellent part work.”

Ed Michaud’s Pemetic Elementary School show choir performed music from Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” The singers rose mightily to that difficult challenge with their voices, movement and acting. Of special note was the diminutive dynamo Molly Dillon and Logan Wilbur, whose diction, pitch and ticked-off attitude couldn’t have been more perfect as she sang about her stolen vegetables.

The MDI choirs should be contenders for a gold medal in Millinocket. (See related story on the new scoring system.)

Giving these schools a run for the gold will be the aforementioned EHS “Hamilton” and Ellsworth Middle School’s performance of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” which also garnered much praise for its young singers and a one rating from the judges.

MDI High School’s other choir, the Trojan Trebles, had some rough patches but opened with a lovely solo by Lily Crikelair and ended with a delicious duet, “When the Sun Goes Down,” by Oriahnna Kelley and Ivy Sanborn.

Judges were impressed by some graceful dance moves from Ashley Graves, Lily Crikelair, Rachel Carignan, Dezi Zaman and Rachel Leonard. They will advance with a two rating.

Other works-in-progress but with oodles of potential that will advance with two ratings are Mary de Koning’s Trentones and Lisa Blanchette’s Sumner Memorial High show choir. Both put plenty of pizzazz into their medley of Michael Jackson and pop tunes respectively, but still need more polish and pitch work.


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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