Minnesingers Homecoming event will celebrate past, present, and future

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File photo by Ralph Stewart

Three generations of the Martha’s Vineyard Minnesingers will raise their hearts and voices in celebration on Friday, Oct. 23, at 7 pm at the Minnesingers Homecoming, the inaugural reunion of the famed Island singing group that has entertained audiences on the Island and around the world for 48 years.

The event will be held at Atria in Edgartown, and will include food, drink, live and silent auctions, and of course, song from the Minnesinger alumnae and alumni, whose ranks number about 1,000 current or former Island residents. “We hope to make this an annual event,” said Molly Conole, a Minnesinger (1973–76) and professional singer and musical director, who is helping to organize the event. The evening will culminate in a choral sing-along with featured Minnesinger conductors past and present.

Among the 10 to 15 live-auction items are four tickets to a New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills NFL game on Monday, Nov. 23, a one-week stay at a three-bedroom home on the Caribbean island of Nevis, and a round of golf for four at the Vineyard Golf Club. The silent auction will include 100 items donated by Island businesses and service companies. There will also be a cash raffle, with prizes of $750, $500, and $250.

Ms. Conole said the Homecoming idea is a way to add support to a long-term base of Island donors and volunteers, and to reunite the generations of Island singers who have made unique and important relationships through their music-making.

Indeed, Ms. Conole, who moved back to the Island nearly two years ago, can rattle off names and years of Minnesinging by her colleagues since she first immersed herself in the group when she arrived on-Island as a 10th grade wash-ashore.

“It’s just a wonderful experience. Bob Dutton (Minnesinger 1973–76) of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society will be there. His daughter Rebecca is a senior, and Debra Grant, the president of the parents’ group, has a brood of Minnesingers. Her daughter Samantha, an MVRHS sophomore, is a Minnesinger, as well as Sam’s sister Joanne (Cassidy) DeRoche (1989–93) and brother Dan Cassidy (1993–97). The list of Island family Minnesingers is very long,” she said.

“Yes, we want to grow our fan base, but celebration is the key element here. Participation in the Minnesingers has opened opportunities that the members never thought of. I know that’s true for me. I have been able to make a career in music,” said Ms. Conole, currently the musical director of the Wicked Good Winter Cabaret series at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse.

Karen Overtoom has done several Minnesinger volunteer jobs since her daughters joined the group six years ago. “I’ve been the travel advisor on trips to Spain and Croatia, and it’s amazing to watch these kids when they begin the trip and when they return from it. Parents tell me it’s been a life changer. A lot of kids have never traveled internationally, or saw the need for a passport.

“They sang with a Spanish choir in Granada, in a church inside a mosque in Cordoba, for schoolkids in Seville, and did spontaneous street concerts. The people loved it, and our kids did too,” she said. The Martha’s Vineyard Minnesingers have also performed in Prague, Paris, and Austria since the group’s inception in 1967.

“My kids are involved in music, and one of them told me that a lot of their music is done in a competitive environment, but Minnesingers is different because it’s like a family — everyone is pulling for each other,” said Ms. Overtoom.

Minnesinging has a long tradition since its origins in Europe in the 12th century among German “Minnesänger” and French “troubadours.” Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the root definition of the word “minne” comes from an old High German word for “love.”

Minnesingers Homecoming, Friday, Oct. 23, 7 pm, Atria, Edgartown. Parking will be available at the Edgartown School. The public is encouraged to attend. Tickets are available for $30 online at mvrhsminnesingers.com or by calling Karen Overtoom at 508-693-8329, emailing Debra Grant at dgrant32b@gmail.com, or directly from members of the Minnesingers. For more information, visit bit.ly/MinnesingersFacebook.