Music : Minnesingers raise funds and voices
Vineyarders will be treated to a sampling of holiday festivities on Saturday at the Minnesingers annual fundraiser at the Portuguese American Club in Oak Bluffs. As the Minnesinger's primary fundraiser, the event combines joyful music, an hors d'oeuvres-laden buffet and a live and silent auction with Trip Barnes offering up some very special auction items, along with his own irrepressible brand of humor. But the main attraction, as always, will be a short concert by the high school choral group, whose well-earned reputation is confirmed at their annual Christmas and spring concerts, and at the holiday programs they perform at the senior centers and at Windemere.
In the capable hands of Jan Wightman, the new Minnesingers director, this group of about 30 talented teens rehearses from 6:30 to 8 pm every Wednesday evening throughout the school year.
Ms. Wightman compares a rehearsal to a sports practice, pointing out the importance of teamwork as well as the individual effort. Choreography is also a very big part of every Minnesingers performance, and the discipline required to learn the music and the dance moves work it all together as a cohesive unit.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
Ms. Wightman, who for 10 years served as assistant choral director, took over the helm of the Minnesingers this year, although she has been the chair of the Performing Arts Department since 1998. She is aided by the new assistant director, Melanie Chaunce.
The Minnesingers have been entertaining Vineyard audiences since 1967. "The tradition is what's important," Ms. Wightman notes.
This year, there will be at least one important change in the Minnesingers' activities. Every other year the Minnesingers have traveled abroad to perform. Although the expense of travel prohibits a yearly overseas trip, Ms. Wightman plans to use the alternate years to compete on the national and regional level, something the group hasn't done for about a decade. She is committed to raising the bar. "I want to provide them with the highest level of music that I can possibly give them"
Although Ms. Wightman briefly performed professionally, teaching has always been her true passion. Her own high school yearbook notes her ambition: "Wants to be a choral director." She laughs and admits she is thrilled to have spent the past almost 40 years living that adolescent dream.
Ms. Wightman served as the high school choral director in Attleboro and Wellesley before joining the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School staff. Commenting on her combined love of music and teaching, she says, "What makes choral so special is the connection between the conductor and the singers. I've had so many amazing music teachers - people you've never heard of. It's about passing the music on."
The Minnesingers' dedication is contagious, inspiring the support of their parents, who operate a fundraising committee. The Minnesingers Parents Group is hard-working, holding meetings throughout the school year. Cheryl Lowe, whose daughter Melanie is a sophomore, says, "The parents, I found out, are expected to take it just as seriously."
And as seriously as she takes her responsibilities, it's obvious that this choral director is having a lot of fun doing what she's wanted to do since she was the age of the kids she's now guiding - teaching them the same sort of perseverance and commitment that she has demonstrated throughout her long career.
As Ms. Wightman reflects on what she's trying to accomplish with her teaching, she says, "These are life lessons - teamwork, being on time, responsibility, hard work. It's not just learning to sing a cappella."
Saturday, Nov. 1, Minnesingers fundraiser, PA Club in Oak Bluffs. Silent auction and hors d'oeuvres start at 5 pm. Performance of jazz tunes at 6:45 pm. Live auction and desserts begin at 7 pm. Tickets, $15 at the door.