Minnesingers in the spotlight with Sultans of Swing

From left: Darby Patterson, Zana Van Rooyen, and Shannon O' Connor. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Minnesinger Parent Group will warm up the Island by hosting a Mid-Winter Ball and Gala at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown this Saturday evening, January 25.

Music for the evening will be provided by the Vineyard’s own Sultans of Swing, and the event features dancing, hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. Silent and live auctions will fill out the evening, and proceeds from the event will support international travel and scholarships for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s (MVRHS) Minnesingers, an elite choral ensemble from the high school that is well-loved for their annual shows at Christmas and springtime. The Minnesingers travel to Europe every two years to make a concert tour and promote cultural awareness.

The annual auction has been held at Farm Neck Golf Club for the last two years, and has been met with unbridled enthusiasm, according to a press release. The highlight of the event has been a mini-performance by the student singers, and they have even offered private performances as an auction item. Hundreds of local artisans and businesses have supported the Minnesingers by donating goods and services for the auction, and it has grown into the largest fundraiser of the year for the group.

“We have been bursting through the space at Farm Neck,” said parent group vice-president Michele Ortlip. “This year we decided it would be amazing to expand our capacity and hold a magical dance event that would be an exciting night out for the Island community in the winter.” The event has received generous support from the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank Charitable Fund, which is a donor advised fund of the Permanent Endowment.

The Sultans of Swing, a much-loved band that plays fundraising events on the Island such as The Taste of the Vineyard in June for the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, will provide musical entertainment for the evening. Jerry Bennett, founder and leader of the Sultans, has a special reason for supporting the auction — his daughter Caley is a member of the Minnesingers.

Attendees of the event are in for a special treat — Mr. Bennett is planning to record the Minnesingers live singing “Africa” by Toto, which has been a regular part of their repertoire over the last year. He explained, “When I was working on the Yes Union album one of the founders of Toto, Steve Porcaro, was a keyboard player in L.A. working on the same record at the same time. He has won countless Grammys. This was in the 80s, so 30 years later to play that great song with my daughter is inspiring… Proves that great music endures.”

The Minnesingers have been going strong since 1967, and they head off on an international concert tour every other year. During April 2013, the group spent 10 days traveling through Croatia, singing in churches and schools and concert halls. Much of the expenses for the travel are underwritten by the Minnesinger Parent Group, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization. The parents work throughout the year in support of the demanding schedule of the singers. The Minnesingers hold sold-out performances each year at the Old Whaling Church during Christmas in Edgartown, and they put on a dance show in May at the MVRHS Performing Arts Center. They also provide numerous performances throughout the community, including at the local senior centers and Windemere.

Benefit Mid-Winter Ball and Gala, 7 pm, Saturday, Jan. 25, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. $40; $35 in advance at ticketsmv.com.