Singing together for life: A cappella school groups perform
NEIL GRABOWSKY/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL
A Cappella Benefit Concert
Friday, May 18, 8 p.m.
Montclair Kimberley Academy Upper School, 6 Lloyd Road
Montclair High School’s Passing Notes; MKA’s Remix; Columbia High School’s The Unaccompanied Minors; Millburn High School’s Soulfege.
Proceeds go to Cycle for Survival for rare cancer research.
For tickets and information, visit https://www.mka-remix.com/concert
By GWEN OREL
It’s personal for Kiki Porter and Casey Borella.
Both singers in Montclair Kimberley Academy’s a cappella group Remix lost their fathers to cancer this past November.
Both girls were involved in “Cycle for Survival” before their fathers’ deaths.
Maria Gilmartin, choral director at MKA and faculty advisor to the school’s chapter of Cycle for Survival, said she was willing to postpone the winter concert to accommodate her two strong singers, assuming they would not be able to sing a week after their fathers’ deaths.
Both girls insisted on singing in the winter concert at MKA in December.
“That’s how much music means to them and their families,” Gilmartin said. The girls sang James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” for their fathers, and junior Rob D'Alessandro, assistant director of Remix, accompanied them on the piano.
An a cappella concert this Friday showcasing area high school groups, including Montclair High School’s Passing Notes, is dedicated to the two dads, Peter Ardley Porter Jr., and Jon Paul Borella.
“Pretty much one of our biggest passions in life is singing,” said Porter, a senior, speaking for herself and Borella. Borella runs a Community Service Inititiative at MKA, and is leader of the Cycle for Survival chapter at MKA. “To be able to turn it into a benefit with other A Cappella groups in a non competitive setting is really nice.”
“Even though they’re not here, it’s still a way to make them proud,” said Borella.
Porter, a senior who plans to attend Oberlin Conservatory of Music in the Fall, lost her father to cancer two days before Borella's father died.
Borella's father had been diagnosed with a rare cancer when he was 24, and she lived her entire life with his having it, she said.
The two girls spoke about their dads’ deaths with poise and calm. They’ve had practice, Borella said, and have spoken about it at other Cycle for Survival benefits.
Cycle for Survival is a national movement that raises money to fight rare cancers. Every dollar raised goes to research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). Since 2007, Cycle for Survival has raised more than $179 million, according to their website.
The different high school groups will perform three songs each.
Montclair High School’s Passing Notes performs around town, but, said senior Eli Kline, “We always hear of Remix. Remix takes it a step further and performs in competitions we don’t do.”
For MHS senior Valentino Musumeci, the collaboration with another a cappella group is exciting. “To have that space to meet other people just as passionate about a cappella is a wonderful opportunity,” he said. Kline and Musumeci are co-leaders of Passing Notes, while D'Alessandro and Porter are the Music Captains for Remix.
And the lack of pressure on Passing Notes seems enviable to Borella. “You guys seem like you have a lot of fun. You always look like you’re having a blast,” she said with a laugh.
Remix and Passing Notes sang together in October at Java Love on Church Street, and raised about $1,400 for Cycle for Survival, Borella said.
But, this is the first time a full concert like this has been planned, Gilmartin said. “We had a really big turnout. It was standing room only. What generated the most excitement was because of the two groups in town. To have these two groups from our town, and the others, makes this a great community event.” The idea to turn the spring concert into a multi-group benefit began that week, she said.
Cycle for Survival, as the name suggests, often raises money through sponsored bicycle rides, but the group can raise money in other ways, including bake sales and concerts.
Students from MKA’s music and theater program will emcee the evening, reading bios and announcing the groups and songs.
While the program was still firming up this past Friday, Remix will sing a Beyoncé song, with Borella a soloist. Kline will solo in a song by Amy Winehouse, with Passing Notes.
“Who knows, maybe next year [the groups] will be able to do something together,” said Musumeci, who will attend Carnegie Mellon in the fall.
Kline agreed, “We hope that this establishes a deeper bond between our two groups that can continue for years.”