Sunday, January 19, 2014

Music with a Mission begins second season with encore performance from Ithacappella - By Elizabeth Richards

On Saturday, January 11, 2014 Ithacappella returned to the North Windham Union Church as part of the popular Music with a Mission concert series. It seems fitting that their encore presentation was the kick off of the second season, since the group’s performance last year was the inspiration behind the series.
Ithacappella is a men’s a cappella group from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Chris Frost, a Windham High School graduate and alumni of the Windham Chamber Singers, is the president of the group. The performance was part of Ithacappella’s winter tour.

The Windham Chamber Singers opened the concert, leading off with a touching rendition of Caledonia, which Frost had requested they sing. Dr. Rick Nickerson, who is both the Minister of Music for the church and conductor of the chamber singers, said “The excitement tonight was more of a homecoming for Chris.” He said it was Frost’s idea to bring the two groups together, and it was an emotional experience for them all. “To see the connection he’s kept with his hometown is really important,” said Nickerson.
Frost said the experience was indescribable. “I was introduced to a real true musical tradition by being in the Windham Chamber Singers. That was the first time I felt as though I was part of something a lot larger than myself that spanned a number of years, and had such a connection to alumni.” When he got to Ithaca College, he was amazed to find another musical tradition with supportive alumni and a rich history in Ithacappella. “The opportunity to bring those two together today was completely amazing. There is just no way to describe how great that felt,” he said.

Frost added that Ithacappella has worked with countless school groups, and he could confidently say there is nothing like the chamber singers anywhere else. “It’s just so satisfying knowing that I’ve come from that, and I’m able to bring that energy into this group now, being president,” he said.

When Ithacappella took the stage, its energy and spirit was instantly apparent. The songs spanned a wide variety of styles, from traditional barbershop to Sting to One Republic’s Counting Stars, with plenty in between. There was no doubt the group was having a great time on stage, drawing the audience into the fun. The ensemble worked well together to highlight the strengths of each member and offer a show filled with variety, balance and laughter. 

The show was interspersed with unexpected moments, from an occasional break dance to a chorus of “What does the Fox Say?” in the middle of a barbershop tune. During the second half, the group serenaded the winning member of the audience on stage with a combination ballad/comedy routine rendition of “Fools Fall In”. After Ithacappella’s final song, “Goodbye My Coney Island Baby,” the chamber singers joined them on stage for a final chorus of “Let the Sunshine In,” during which many audience members clapped and sang along. 

Despite icy and foggy weather conditions and a Patriots game, the concert was a huge success, with a full house. 

Jim McBride, chair of the Music with a Mission committee said that in the upcoming season they are bringing back some of the most popular acts from last year, and also some new talent that they are excited to introduce. 
The Windham Chamber Singers will be the featured act for the March 29th concert. Dr. Nickerson said they are excited about the opportunity to give back. “While it would be easy for us to do that concert at the school and just keep all the proceeds ourselves, it was very important that we do something bigger than ourselves,” he said. Their concert will support Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors. 

As MWAM moves into its second season, there have been some lessons learned from the first year, said Nickerson. “We always assumed that summer time would be a great time for concerts and we’re not convinced that’s necessarily so,” he said. 

McBride agreed, adding that while there were decent crowds at the summer shows, attendance was only about half of what they had expected. Another lesson they learned, said McBride, is that the core audience is older than they originally thought it would be.  Because of that, some of the concerts are targeted to that older audience, but McBride said, “We’re very intentional to mix it up, to bring in lots of different types of music and introduce it to the crowd.”

The performers choose the nonprofit that benefits from each concert, but McBride says they have narrowed the scope to focus on nonprofits that are helping people, as well as keeping it local to the lakes region area.
At the end of the evening, Frost said he was overwhelmed and overjoyed, and impressed with the community. “You forget when you are away for so long at school how amazing the community we have is,” he said.

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