Minnesingers past and present come together for 50th anniversary

—Ralph Stewart

It’s a grand weekend for singing, and dancing too, as the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Minnesingers, joined by some 100 musical alumni, present their 50th Anniversary Celebration and Performance Saturday, May 12, at 7 pm, and Sunday, May 13, at 3 pm at the Performing Arts Center. The weekend is both festive and bittersweet as former Minnesingers are welcomed while loving farewells are extended to longtime director Jan Wightman. For several of the 27-member elite performing group, this will be their last concert before graduating.  

The song and dance program spans several decades and many musical genres, with selections from Renaissance to Baroque, contemporary, country, and pop hits. A noteworthy highlight is “Ave Maria,” composed by alum Jesse Weiner.

Rehearsals began in January, with students practicing vocals and dance routines several hours weekly.

The choral portion includes works by J.S. Bach, Fauré, Randall Thompson, and others, accompanied on piano by Nancy Rogers. Post-intermission, transformed by Chelsea McCarthy’s colorful costumes, the students offer dances choreographed by Ken Romero and solo and small group performances. Rogers, McCarthy, and Romero all were Minnesingers during high school days.

The group’s a cappella ensemble, Sound Wave, will entertain during intermission.

The 50th anniversary reunion celebration has been a year in the making, with a 12-member reunion committee reaching out to former singers and planning events.

“I want the kids to see that Minnesingers is a 50-year tradition,” explained Ms. Wightman.

She said the group’s first spring concert was held in 1968, and alumni from every decade since will take part in the show.

After socializing at the Loft Friday evening, reunion singers gather Saturday for brunch at the school before rehearsing as a group, and with the Minnesingers. Alumni will join current singers onstage for five pieces, including “The Water Is Wide” and “You Raise Me Up,” and some will appear in dance numbers too. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” features instrumental accompaniment by five former Minnesingers.

Bob Nute, who headed the music department from 1971 to 1999, returns as a special guest conductor, along with Minnesinger alumni Bryan Mackenty, Abigail Southard Chandler, and Rosemarie Richard.