PELHAM — “Go Ashley!” shouted one excited person in the crowd, startling the rest of the audience and creating a wave of laughter throughout the Pelham Memorial School gymnasium. Perhaps this would ease any nervousness of Ashley Supernault, who unexpectedly became the last-minute star of the sixth-grade chorus at the May 24 spring concert.
Minutes before the chorus was scheduled to perform, having already performed with the select choir, Brendan Sullivan, who had earned the solo in the second of a three-song set, “All The Pretty Horses,” fell ill and went home.
Even in the sixth grade, the performers realized that the show must go on, and Ashley admirably stepped in.
Although the group had the song memorized for two months, choral director Kelly Sullivan allowed Ashley to use a copy of the music as a “safety blanket,” although she didn’t need it. Ashley sang confidently as if she had been singing the song all her life.
That spirit of professionalism, evident in each of the six performing groups, permeated throughout the two-hour show.
The patriotic-themed show began with the 12-member select choir’s impressive rendition of one of the most difficult songs to sing, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In an interesting juxtaposition, the choir’s mellow and elegant set was followed by the “Stompin’ at the Savoy” style of the incomparable PMS jazz band.
Each number of the four-song set included standout solos from several talented performers, including an outstanding piece of tenor sax playing by Ethan Ely on “Chameleon,” and an equally impressive trumpet duet by Justin Seavey and John Bourk on “Blues in the Night.”
Those who were lucky enough to score front-row seats were treated, not only to the fantastic music, but the equally entertaining conducting style of instrumental director Paul Santerre. When it comes to the jazz band, he allows his style to be as loose as the jazz, his baton not making an appearance, as he gently leads the musicians with subtle hand gestures and nods of the head.
Santerre explained that he was a little nervous about the jazz band before the performance because the group, which meets for only 90 minutes each week, hadn’t been together for two weeks due to a variety of obstacles, including the eighth-grade trip to Washington and the recent flooding.
“When you only meet once a week and play this well, it is a credit to their family backgrounds, intellectual backgrounds and dedication to and love of music,” he said.
Santerre added that one of his goals is to teach classic 1930s and 1940s jazz, quite a feat in the iPod generation. “I commend them for trying to be a 1940s band,” he said. “I explained to them that even I have not lived that long.”
During choral performances, eighth-grade tenor saxophone virtuoso Melody Long pulled double duty, turning pages for her mom, piano accompanist Akiko Long, while simultaneously calming her 3-year-old brother, Nathan, who sat next to the piano bench, silently crying and clawing at Melody’s arm until she reached around to tickle him or play peek-a-boo with his blankie.
Once Nathan had his big sister’s attention, his eyes lit up and laughter took over his tiny faceFor Melody, the night was bittersweet as she said goodbye to a music program that has been a key piece of her life during the past three years.
“It’s a little sad, because I’ve been with him (Mr. Santerre) so long,” said the Pelham High-bound saxophonist. “The last three years have been difficult, but definitely worth it.”
The evening was equally bittersweet for Kelly Sullivan, who was completing her third full year at the school and was sending off the first group of students she has seen entirely through her program.
“I’m sad, but it has been amazing,” Sullivan said. “The group has doubled in size and I hope they all keep singing in high school.”
The future of the Pelham Memorial School’s music program looks bright after the performance of the sixth-grade band led by Michael Seckla, the assistant instrumental director. The instrumentalists, referred to by Santerre as the “junior-varsity squad,” who received their instruments just 20 months ago, are preparing to be the elite of the seventh- and eighth-grade band and jazz band in the near future.
The evening’s performance was dedicated to Santerre’s mother, Yolanda Santerre, who passed away in March, an experience Santerre said was made much easier by the understanding and support of his students.
“The kids have been great,” he said. “They have been the glue of my personal life, which makes everything a little less painful. They really care and I appreciate that.”
The concert was professionally recorded. Santerre said he expects to have copies ready for sale at the jazz band’s June 21 performance as part of the town’s “Concert on the Common” series on Village Green.
Have a story idea? Jennifer Amy Myers can be reached at 978-970-4649 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.