Despite snowy weather, the 20th annual Richard Nickerson Scholarship Concert on Saturday, January 7 was a rousing success, with 13 acts featuring solos, duets or trios, and three numbers by the largest alumni chorus to date.
Not only was this the 20th anniversary, but the excitement of Dr. Nickerson being recognized as one of 10 national finalists for the Music Educator Award made it a truly special evening.
Energy was high onstage, and the enthusiasm of the audience was apparent throughout the concert, with frequent comments on the talent of the performers overheard.
This anniversary concert drew one third of prior scholarship recipients to the stage, including the very first recipient, Dr. Elisabeth Marshall, who performed the solo in Mozart’s “Laudate Dominum” with the alumni chorus.
Master of ceremonies Kim McBride kept the concert flowing smoothly with witty commentary as she introduced each performer. The acts were well balanced between upbeat and ballads, serious and silly themes. Although performers select their own material the goal each year is to offer a variety of styles, according to producer Janelle LoSciuto. “We do try to balance it out so that there’s a little bit of something for everyone,” she said.
This year’s concert did just that. All of the performances were well done, particularly since some of the alumni no longer perform on a regular basis. Celli Spaulding showed off her considerable talents, which include songwriting, guitar and vocal performance, with a sorrowful original song titled “Hollow Love.” Two songs from the immensely popular “Hamilton” stood out, including a touching rendition of “Dear Theodosia” performed by Jameson McBride and Avery Topel, and a lively rap “My Shot” performed by Kevin MacKaye. Matthew Scala’s animated performance of Andrew Byrne’s “A Contemporary Musical Theater Song” accentuated the silly nature of the song and prompted laughter in the audience at the start of the show.
The alumni chorus had over two dozen participants this year. Listening to their performance, it was hard to believe that they came together for just one rehearsal prior to the day of the concert.
The sound they produced spoke to the talent of Windham High School music alumni and to Dr. Nickerson’s ability to bring a group together through his enthusiastic conducting. The group performed not only the Mozart piece, but a beautiful rendition of “Voyager’s Promise” and an upbeat, toe-tapping, hand-clapping version of “Aquarius (Let the Sunshine In).”
The Richard Nickerson Scholarship fund was started by parents of the Windham Chamber Singers in 1997 in appreciation of Dr. Richard Nickerson, director of choral activities at Windham High School. Each year, a $1,000 scholarship is awarded to a graduating senior who plans to pursue music in some way during his or her college experience. The Richard Nickerson Scholarship Committee has awarded nearly $20,000 in scholarships to 26 graduates, who all continue to be involved with music in their lives.
Putting together the concert was a task that started early this year. “I started in February, knowing it would be the 20th anniversary, which we wanted to be really special,” LoSciuto said.
She began with an email to all alumni who had received the scholarship, which resulted in a great turnout of recipients. In September, she emailed other alumni to fill out the show, which she said ideally includes about 16 solos, duets or ensembles in addition to the alumni chorus.
Because it was a special year, the choral pieces were selected by Dr. Nickerson this time around.
“Everyone who came, and everyone who is not here, is pulling for him. They all know what an honor it is, and they understand 100 percent why he was selected,” LoSciuto said. The winner of the award will be announced in February.
LoSciuto would like to invite other members of the community to get involved in next year’s show by joining the scholarship committee. In addition, she said, “I want people to mark their calendar for next year. We are always the first Saturday in January. I want that place packed!”