by Susan Feeney Hopkins
Exceeding the expectations of the organizers and participants who were “thrilled and slightly overwhelmed” (by the turn out), the Aroostook River Voices concert held Sunday, Nov. 14 at the Ashland District School confirmed that our area has an abundance of musical talent. Residents flocked to the 350-plus-seat auditorium with not a seat to spare.
The chorus opened with a flawless harmonic version of “California Dreaming,” leading into a goose-bump inducing Beatles favorite, “Let It Be.” Each song was introduced by an Ashland High School student with the “mission of featuring high school students as speakers and soloists.” One of the students, Kenny Tarr, who was chosen as an Eastern Maine All Star, had the decision between playing in the Eastern Maine All Star soccer game or participating in the concert, as they were both serendipitously scheduled for the same day. Kenny chose performing in the concert, where it was easy to see his love of music was the over-riding factor. He was presented with a soccer ball as an award to recognize his commitment to music.
Aroostook River Voices is a chorus made up of, at last count, 66 local residents, young and old; community members and students whose only prerequisite is a love of singing. Directed by Ashland resident and former Ashland music educator Larry Hall, he conceived the idea in the summer of 2010 with the sole intention of generating an interest in and introducing the (high) school students to a formal chorus with the long-term goal of establishing a high school chorus as part of the school curriculum.
“There has never been a high school chorus in the Ashland school system. Chorus ends with the junior high,” said Hall. By his summation, Hall said he is “lucky” to have the support of four additional music professional staff on board to assist him, as well as four instrumentalists. When asked where I could sign up to join in on the fun, I was told to “just show up to practice.” They invite “anyone who wants to sing” to join the group – adults or high school age students. “We want the largest chorus that we can! We’ll stop when we get to 500!” Hall laughingly said. They do propose participants commit to attending rehearsals, as they are important for a successful performance. Practices are held for one hour on Sunday evenings and a half-hour on Friday mornings. Since the concert, they have added an additional three high school voices to the choir. (Be careful what you wish for Mr. Hall; you may just reach that 500 mark!). Uniquely, there are three distinct generations of singers in this ensemble including a father standing in performance with his son and daughter, a pastor with several of his congregation members, teachers with their students; all connected together by the common thread of song. It was quite an inspiring group. Especially to learn they only began singing together in September!
The Ashland Middle School Chorus was invited to perform as “special guests” in the concert. The students sang a few numbers from the movie “Shrek.” Directed by Jon Simonoff and accompanied by Sarah Diette, both music instructors at the school, the students seemed to really take pleasure in performing in front of such a big crowd. Middle school students participating in the concert were Cassandra Bolstridge, Phillip Lucas Craig, Sydney Curtis, Lauryn Deabay, Carly Fredericks, Jackob Grey-Purvis, Airin Harmon, Conner Hebert, Tiffany Libby, LeAnn McNally, Matthew Norris, Gabrielle Reese, Emma Sessoms, Kyle Soetarert-Beaulier, Monica Sperrey, Megan Stanton, Hannah Stratton, Laura Sturgeon, Timothy Tarr, Chelsea Vaillancourt and Samantha Watt.
Members of the Katahdin High School Chorus, directed by Bonny Cox, was another group of special guest singers taking part in the concert. Mr. Hall explained upon their introduction that he thought it would be a nice addition to the day to have “an actual high school chorus perform with us.” Perform they did! This group of students proves the value of vocal music in the high school curriculum. Their confidence and talent were appreciated by their audience and peers.
The Aroostook River Voices chorus performed a diverse anthology of songs from classic rock to gospel with each song having an original twist to the arrangement displaying the rich tones and perfect harmonies of the singers. The songs and arrangements were chosen and prepared by the very talented musical staff and instrumentalists. They based their song choice on “the group of voices.”
Once the concert ended, the members joined with the guests for a social hour all reveling in their success. Members of the Aroostook River Voices included high school students Gabrielle Cyr, Brook Labelle, Rebecca Libby, Kali Pelletier and Fallyn Tardie (sopranos), Allyx Beaulier, Shea Craig, Rachel Gillis, Stephanie Goulet, Christina MacDonald, Tanisha Procino and Courtney Carr (altos), and Jordan Beaulier, Keith Holmes, Nick Porter, Kenny Tarr and Amos Ward (baritones). Community members included Lisa Basley, Patty Cyr, Brenda Clark, Shannon Deabay, Marion Dunham, Julie Gardiner, Connie Harold, Lucinda Jacobs, Joan Johnson, Danielle Long, Terri Lovewell, Jennifer Paradis, Pat Rafford and Wendy Robinson (sopranos), and Linda Alverson, Melanie Baker, Sue Beaulier, Marilyn Butler, Vilma Craig, Sharon Everett, Cassidy Goulet, Anne Hall, Sheila Lyons, Linda Pelletier, Rachel Stevens, Shari Ward and Bobbi Jo Condon (altos). Tenor singers were Marilyn Chase, Wayne Gagnon, Noreen Graham, Jim Laveway, Chris Long, Dick Long, Pat Long, Judy Nichols and Joe Pelletier with the bass singers Bill Harris and Bob Sawyer.
The music staff included Sherri Calhoun, Sarah Diette, Jenna Hartung, Larry Hall and Jon Simonoff. Instrumentalists were Joel Hall, Melissa Hall, Randy King and Chris Morton.
I was quite impressed with just how good they were and look forward to hearing them again. The next scheduled concert is set to take place at the Ashland District School Sunday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. It will be a Christmas concert with the group uniting with the Caribou Choral Society. Admission is free, but they will be accepting donations at the door. The holiday concert is sponsored by the Ashland Alumni Association.
The Ashland Area Senior Citizens group meets every Thursday at noon at the Ashland Recreational Center. Any senior citizens wishing to participate in the potluck lunches and meetings are always welcome to attend.
The Portage Lake Over 50’s Club lunch is held on the last Tuesday of every month at 11:30 a.m. at the Town Hall. All individuals 50 and over are invited to attend and can bring a potluck dish to share. For more information, contact Wilza Robertson at 435-6211 or Grace Nason at 435-6373.
The Red Hat Loonies of Portage Lake meet the second Thursday of every month at Dean’s Motor Lodge. Membership dues are $2. Come and have a great meal and a great time, too! For more information, contact Rachel Stevens at 435-635.
Susan Feeney-Hopkins is the correspondent for Ashland, Portage Lake, Oxbow, Masardis, Garfield, Nashville Plantation and surrounding townships. She can be reached at 435-8232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.