MCLA’s Allegrettos Brings Lenox Caroling Prize Home to North Adams

MCLA Allegrettos: First prize winners with front row L to R Richard Wise, Smitty Pignatelli, two co-directors, Andrea Goodman

MCLA Allegrettos: First prize winners with front row L to R Richard Wise, Smitty Pignatelli, two co-directors, Andrea Goodman

Lenox, MA –  In a figurative bridesmaid twist, last year’s second-place winner in the Lenox Caroling Festival captured top honors yesterday in the festival’s 2012 competition.

The Allegrettos, an enthusiastic and talented 30-member vocal ensemble from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Mass., captured the $2,000 First Prize in this year’s event.

In a close contest, the $500 second-place award went to the Lexington High School Madrigal Singers, a group that is well known for its work in the Boston area, where it performs some 30 concerts each year.

The Cape Chorale, a select choir of Cape Henlopen High School students in Lewes, Del., tied for third place with the Ridgefield Chorale Touring Ensemble, a Connecticut group familiar to lovers of choral music throughout that state, and each received a $250 cash prize. The tie occurred due to close scores in voting by audiences attending the outdoor performances in venues throughout Lenox Village, and from the musicians and critics comprising the panel of judges who shared decision-making with the popular voter.

Richard Wise, festival president, said the festival attracted more than twice as many spectators to the Village than its first edition in Dec. 2011, with crowds blocking the streets atone point. More than 350 persons remained following the competitive singing for the awards ceremonies, which took place at a Shakespeare & Co. theater in Lenox, where each of the eight ensembles offered brief performances.

State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli presented the prizes to the winners along with the festival’s new perpetual trophy, “La Chanteuse,” (“The Singer”), a mounted bronze sculpture by the noted artist Andrew DeVries who contributed the bronze to the festival.

Wise said that nearly 2,500 votes were cast in the popular vote, each voter designating his/her choice for first, second and third place. And, reflecting on the influx into the village, merchants and restaurateurs noted the increased activity in their establishments.

Paul Leney, owner of B Mango & Bird, an eclectic lifestyle shop, said business was up about a third over last year. “More people were from out of-town It was a good day,” he declared,” “Last year was good, and I would say this year we’re approaching great.”

At Evviva, one of the village’s fashionable boutiques, owner Marla Monjardo agreed. “We had a good day, and compared to last year, much better.” She added that spectators appeared to enjoy very much the two groups that performed on the shop’s porch.

With one exception, each of the eight choirs performed both morning and afternoon 20-minute sets with an intermission break for lunch between the sessions. Matt Tucker, co-owner of Shot’s Café reported brisk business during the intermission, as did Aurelien Telle, co-owner of Alta, a popular restaurant and wine bar, whose porch also welcomed two large groups of carolers. “I think it was great, and I liked very much seeing the people enjoying the beautiful music of the carol singers,” said Telle.

The Allegrettos approached the competition in a novel manner, integrating carols and other holiday tunes into a drama about a family whose husband and father on military service assignment in the middle east makes an unexpected return appearance back home for the holidays. Led by J. Cottle, Brittney Gerber and Benjamin Balon, the group was founded in 2009 as the Hoosings, a 10-person ensemble of 10 MCLA freshmen. Now triple that size, it performs a cappella and gospel music as well as holiday literature.

Now marking its 40th anniversary, the Lexington High School Madrigal Singers perform without a conductor, focusing on chamber-music ensemble skills, each of its 19 members attired in formal concert raiment. Some festival judges noted privately the group’s impressive vocal gifts, poise and striking arrangements. Last spring the ensemble performed Estonian choral works for that nation’s Ambassador to the United States, and in a later tour of Finland, Sweden and Estonia was well received.

The Cape Chorale, under Louise Foster’s direction, includes 24 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students who rehearse three times weekly. The Chorale performed last December before the National Christmas Tree and in Leg Hall for the Delaware Legislature at the request of Cong. Pete Schwartzkopf.

Established in 2010, the Ridgefield Chorale Touring Ensemble includes 16 to 20 singers selected by Daniela Sikora, the artistic director, from members of the larger Ridgefield Chorale. Since the Chorale’s formation, the group has performed in a number of locations, including appearances with Eileen Ivers in the Ridgefield Playhouse, with the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, at holiday gatherings in Stamford Conn., and in New York state.

‘The quality of singing was extremely high at this festival, making decisions very difficult, both for the judges and our audiences,” observed Andrea Goodman, the festival director who leads three choirs of her own in the region. “As we did this year with the Allegrettos, we hope to welcome back the other contestants in future years,” she added. “We want to hear more of their music-making.”

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