Raising spirits and voices
On Saturday evening in the Performing Arts Center of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, the Minnesingers will perform an old-time rock and roll spring concert in tribute to the school's 50th graduating class. The extraordinary program chosen by the director Jan Wightman promises to be an evening of smokin' music through the decades.
The high school's first class graduated in 1960 and since 1967, the Minnesingers have performed abroad from the streets of Vienna to the cathedrals of Lithuania. Named after the famous French and German troubadours who roamed the countryside in the 12th century singing songs of love, the Vineyard Minnesingers have a tradition of traveling to Europe, then returning home in spring to perform for Islanders. In April they were awarded a bronze medal at the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Association Festival.
As they sing and dance before Vineyard, each member of the chorus learns more than just music and bop. Along with their beautiful voices, the young singers develop character, teamwork, and discipline.
It should all be evident on Saturday evening as the Minnesingers sing and dance their way through the decades. From Bill Haley's 50s classic "Rock Around the Clock" to Elvis Presley's "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog," the chorus will have baby boomers bouncing in their seats.
Memories will be summoned for 60s graduates as they hear the sounds of the Beatles' "Revolution" and the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations." Members of that 70s generation can "Rock and Roll All Night" or hum along to Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World." Songs of the 80s include Madonna's "Material Girl" and the Stones' "Start Me Up," as well as the theme song from "Danger Zone." From the exotic rhythms of Santana to the spins of "Flashdance," the group will demonstrate their virtuosity.
When Sophomore Toby Riseborough entered high school last year, he discovered it was music that united him with kids from different backgrounds.
"It connected me with others and allowed me to fit in," he says. "People have their own biases about their favorite music, so it's good that the director chooses songs that are new to everyone. She inspires everybody to learn the music of different cultures. The programs include all the different genres, different moods, and various moves from around the world."
Although rehearsals add an additional commitment of time to her busy school year, senior Emma Frizzell, a member of the 50th graduating class, says, "I get to focus on music and not think about anything else for the moment," something she finds relaxing among the academic pressures of school.