In director's final Pop Concert, band and choir rock MAUHS

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BENNINGTON — Thirty-two years ago, when Mount Anthony Union High School band director Marjorie Rooen arrived at MAU, she brought with her what would become an annual tradition: The Pop Concert, a collaboration between the pop choir, jazz band, and any students who wanted the opportunity to show off their skills in small ensemble or solo performances.

On Saturday, Rooen, who is retiring at the end of the school year, directed her final Pop Concert. Initially, there were to be three performances, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, but snow led to the Thursday performance being called off.

Rooen said on Friday night that the Pop Concert is always the most fun show of the year, and that it would be very weird to say goodbye and leave the show in the hands of her successor.

The MAUHS auditorium stage was divided into three stages to facilitate quick transitions between songs. The pop choir and smaller choral ensembles took the main stage, with the jazz band inhabiting the floor on stage left, and the various rock bands that played throughout the night holding down the floor on stage right. A second, smaller stage was set up on the center floor in front of the main stage, for solo acts and groups of two or three people, with the piano off to the side of that.

The concert was bookended with two performances of "Aquarius" from the 1967 musical "Hair" from the combined pop choir and jazz band. The first solo performance of the night was from Cooper Mason, who played guitar and sang Cavetown's "This is Home." The pop choir then returned to the stage for a rendition of Meghan Trainor's "Better When I'm Dancin'" Rachel Langlois and Erica Sholes, accompanied by Ben Bushee on piano, performed "Wild Things" by Alessia Cara. The jazz band the performed "Fever," the rhythm and blues classic written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell and famously performed by Peggy Lee, Elvis Presley, and Madonna, among other, with vocals by Sienna McFaline.

The first rock band performance of the night was from The Throwbacks, made up of Rimmele Wood on lead vocals and guitar, Garrett Currier on vocals and guitar, Seth Button-Mosher on vocals and bass, Owen Maroney on vocals and drums, and Gabe Schatz on vocals and tambourine. They performed Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl." The Da Capos a cappella group performed "Something Like This," by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay, which was followed by a solo performance from Tea Oakes, who played ukulele and sang Shawn Mendes' "Treat You Better." The jazz band performed The Doobie Brother's "China Grove," which featured Joey Cencellieri on tenor saxophone.

McFaline returned to the stage alongside fellow vocalist C.C. Coffield and guitarist Mason for Jorja Smith's "On My Mind." Mady and the Lost, made up of Mady Breese on vocals, Cody Myers on guitar and vocals, Jake Hill on bass, and Kevin Breese on drums, took on Nothing More's "Love?" The show continued strongly into intermission with Sofia Fusco, on vocals, and Cara Fitzhugh, on vocals and piano, performing a duet of Glen Hasard's "Falling Slowly;" a rock band lead by vocalist Tucker Beaudoin, who was joined by Jackson Granger, Wood, Devin Francis, and Currier in playing Billy Joel's "Shades of Grey," and the chamber singers' performance of A-ha's "Take on Me."

After intermission, the jazz band returned to the stage with the jazz standard "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," featuring Kyonna Tobin on alto saxophone. Taylor Hewins played guitar and sang in a song he wrote himself, "Striped Arms." The Madrigals, a smaller a cappella group did Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance With Me," which was followed by Sophia Fusco, who performed Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack." Wood, Schatz, Fitzhugh, and Currier all teamed up for Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah's "Lake Shore Drive," after which the chambers singers returned to the stage with The Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road."

Over two hours into the concert, the students kept the energy in the room high going into the final stretch. McFaline, Lucy Holden, and Langlois performed Wilson Phillips' "Hold On;" the jazz band, featuring Tobin, played Carlos Santana's "Black Magic Woman;" Bushee sang Benj Pasik and Justin Paul's "Never Enough," accompanied by Anna Salem on piano; and the pop choir performed Toto's "Africa," complete with rain sound effects, which they simulated by snapping and slapping their thighs. The final song before the reprise of Aquarius brought the show to a close was performed by The Throwbacks, who were joined by Dray Bourgeois for Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."

The concert was emceed Evan Kozierok, who kept the audience laughing, and sometimes groaning, in between sets with his pun-filled introductions.

"I plan on staying in the area, as I have been part of the community for 32 years," wrote Rooen in her letter of resignation. "I enjoy the town and the people in Bennington. I will be working on other projects in the music industry and will be president of the New England Music Festival Association in March of 2018. This will keep me busy and still in music education where I have studied and trained." Rooen currently serves as the president-elect of that organization, which has organized the New England Music Festival and other performance opportunities for school-age singers, string and wind players and percussionists since 1928.

The concert was filmed by MAUHS Drama Club advisor Tim Foley and Catamount Access Television, and will be broadcast on CAT-TV in the coming days. It will also be available on the station's YouTube page.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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