ELLSWORTH — Once again the perfect cure for the winter blahs arrived right on schedule, last Friday, when area high school and middle school show choirs turned up to wow audiences with their talent and enthusiasm at Maine’s District VI Vocal Jazz and Show Choir Festival held at Ellsworth High School.
EHS’s rollicking, rip-roaring performance of tunes from “The Greatest Showman,” and Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School’s adorable adaption of Muppet tunes both earned high praise and silver rankings from the judges and with a few small adjustments should have a good shot at the gold at the state finals March 29-30.
Sumner Memorial High School also brought high-energy fun with their “Mamma Mia” tunes, earning bronze, as did Trenton, Peninsula, Mountain View schools and EHS’s jazz choir.
The Mount Desert High School show choir earned the only gold medal of the evening with its near flawless choral mash-up “Requiem” and the island’s Conners-Emerson and Pemetic schools earned silver for their pop tune medley and tunes from “Les Misérables,” respectively.
But it was Rebecca Wright’s EHS show choir that brought the circus to town, with all the razzle dazzle and high-octane energy of a Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil performance. Backed by a small but excellent pit band, these kids twirled, swirled, leapt, stomped, clapped, cartwheeled and went airborne with Jasmine Ireland’s thrilling choreography, all the while singing robustly and tunefully. Oh, my, it was fun!
Although it is a wonder they could breathe at all after all that dancing, both Aurora Haslam and Nolan Domagala delivered some terrific vocal solos. Standouts in the overall excellence of the dance were Grace High a whirling, unflagging vision in sparkling gold, and Maddie Henry, who was like the calm eye in a storm as she pirouetted prettily throughout the mayhem.
And speaking of excellent dance moves, Sumner High’s Stephanie Erb also gave her choir some serious choreography to contend with, which all the kids handled beautifully with Mia Richardson being such a standout it was hard to take one’s eyes off her. She also delivered a fine vocal solo. The chorus numbers did suffer a bit from all that exercise, but they re-energized for a fun finale with “Voulez Vous.”
With a few weeks of rehearsal ahead, director Lisa Blanchette should be able to build up their stamina and resolve some pitch issues before finals.
Bringing on the adorable was EEMS with its well-chosen Muppet mash-up, featuring some terrific piano and drum backup and among other great vocal work, an enchanting solo from Caleb Leathers who is gradually and gracefully shifting from a soprano to a baritone. Director Tyler Costigan also gave his kids some challenging choreography, having them cover the entire stage, with ever changing tableaux and patterns. In fact, one of the song lyrics they sang was something like, “I can’t wipe the smile from my face,” which turned out to be absolutely true for everyone in the audience.
Among the most improved choir performances was Peninsula School under the direction of Emily Jordan and Steve Hodgdon. Although they started off a bit raggedly, by the second number they had relaxed into it and started having fun, singing nicely in strong unison and pulling off some impressive gymnastic moves. Then, as a big finish, Ainsley Alley delivered what may very well have been the best solo of the whole competition with her “Rise Up.”
Another terrific solo was sung by Mountain View’s Amber Springer. This choir, too, got off to a rough start but pulled it all together midway and showed some real potential.
Mary de Koning’s Trentones were darling and had some fun moments, with a medley of romantic show tunes, earning the big laugh of the day with their “Kiss the Girl.”