For the past 38 years, Edgartown has hosted Christmas in Edgartown, a weekend event aimed at spreading holiday cheer. Highlights of the festivities include various live showcases of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) students, who spend months preparing for the live performances at the heart of a tradition that connects Islanders during the holidays.
On Friday and Saturday, the MVRHS Minnesingers performed their Winter Show at the Old Whaling Church. On Sunday, the annual Holiday Rise dance show presented two performances at the Performing Arts Center (PAC).
The festival began Friday night, and many people celebrated by attending the Minnesingers Winter Show. The show was the culmination of months of practice and preparation, and featured a variety of holiday songs such as “What Child?” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” The group manages to choose a set of completely new songs each year, keeping only the alumni-led “Hallelujah Chorus” as a recurring closing number. As the final notes of the sopranos rang out above a thunderous timpani, the packed crowd rose in applause.
The Old Whaling Church was sold out for both performances, as it has often been for the past five decades. Current Minnesingers director and music teacher Abigail Chandler referred to the winter show as a core element of the Vineyard holiday experience. “This is the 52nd year of Minnesingers; a lot of audience members have childhood memories of this group,” she said. “The community has an ownership of us, in a sense. That’s what defines this winter show.”
Sophomore and first-year Minnesinger Emmett Favreau remarked on the sense of wonder that the group continues to imbue in their performances: “When I was in the third grade, I moved from New York City, and I was still adjusting to the traditions of the Island when my parents took me to the [Minnesingers Winter Show] at the Whaling Church,” said Emmett. “Seeing high schoolers do something that was so amazing and meaningful was really eye-opening to me.” Emmett continued to enjoy each Minnesingers show, and he was inspired to audition for the group during his sophomore year.
Christmas in Edgartown also traditionally features a holiday parade, one in which Rise dancers slide, tap, and hop to Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock.” Unfortunately, due to rainy weather, the dancers’ rendition of the piece was delayed, becoming the opening number for their two annual holiday show performances on Sunday.
Senior Rise dancer and Minnesinger Maddy Tully gave some insight on the show’s combination of classic Christmas tunes with exciting modern dance. “We hear the same music every year, but dance makes it more meaningful,” said Maddy. “We put so much passion and energy into each performance for our community, and that makes these holiday shows special.”