LYNDON CENTER — A cast of area youths dazzled a packed house at The Caledonian-Record’s second annual Rising Star showcase held Saturday at Lyndon State College.
The Alexander Twilight Theatre was nearly full for a show filled with awe, celebration and joy.
For the second year, the newspaper focused on finding local youth talent, featuring them in the newspaper’s pages, then putting together a show to give the students a well-deserved stage on which to share their talent.
The lineup included a handful of student composers whose original lyrics lit up the stage with songs about love, loss, and cherishing what matters most.
The Kingdom All Stars Band, directed by Todd Wellington, served as the house band for the event, providing many sets to complement the lineup of talent.
Glen Jardine, The Caledonian Record’s Director of Digital Media & Events and event organizer, said after the show, “We couldn’t have asked for a better or more supportive crowd. … The kids never cease to amaze us. This year’s new acts took the stage like seasoned professionals and the acts that returned from last year some how found ways to top their inaugural performances.”
“We knew we had a chance for a great show when Rory Higgs got a standing ovation in sound check,” said Rising Stars Music Director Todd Wellington. “But what we didn’t know was that everybody else in the show would perform at such a high level. These kids crushed it. All afternoon long.”
After the show, Wellington reached out to thank this year’s performers, telling the students, “The audience loved the show and you have all been part of something special.”
Rory Higgs, a 12-year-old 7th grader at the Good Shepherd School in St. Johnsbury, won the crowd’s heart with his rendition of “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” and also served as emcee for parts of the show, adding youthful charm to the introduction of the acts.
Rory said he’s enjoyed performing on stage since he was very young, and has gained more experience by participating in the Vermont Children’s Theater. This was his second year taking part in the Rising Stars show, and he was thrilled to return.
“It’s really awesome and cool to be performing in front of all these people!” said an excited Rory before the show as the audience began streaming into the theater.
Tori Young, 14, a freshman at North Country Union High School, has been playing instruments and singing as long as she can remember, and performed “Stranded,” an original song that she wrote after a school assembly about a 13-year-old that committed suicide.
Tori said she was struck by James Halligan’s heartbreaking loss and how he came to terms with his son’s death and managed to provide a positive message to other teens. She wrote the song not long after meeting him.
The Kingdom All Stars musicians performed throughout the 20-act show both as a full ensemble and as smaller groups.
The event, which lasted about two hours, opened with Macey Mawhinney of Lyndon singing “Closer to Heart,” a charming start featuring one of the show’s younger performers. Macey’s brother, Zane, who plays with Kingdom All Stars, also had a solo performance titled “Zanespace,” in which he shared cosmic vibrations played on a multitude of keyboards.
Two members of the All Stars, Liza Morse and Ava Marshia performed a saxophone duet as “Girls In Black,” complete with black shades through which they exchanged knowing glances as they began their number.
Manika Druke, a St. Johnsbury Academy student, performed twice, a special opportunity, noted Wellington, introducing her for the second time to applause. She first performed a poignant rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon” while playing acoustic guitar, and later sang “House of the Rising Sun” while accompanying herself on piano.
Siri Jolliffe of Barnet performed on the ukulele and sang her original “Dear Josephine,” a tender, melancholy melody written to a fictional name, which can stand for “anyone you want it to be,” she said after the show. “If you have something that you love, you should keep it and you shouldn’t make mistakes that allow it to go away.”
Jolliffe said not all her songs are that serious, but she wanted to share “Dear Josephine” at the Rising Stars event, where it was well received by the audience.
Sisters Elizabeth and Bailee Booth of Troy each had a solo performance in the show, Elizabeth, 12, sang “Sad Song,” wearing a sweet sky blue dress with sparkles upon it. Her older sister put her beautiful voice and talent to the classic “Jolene.”
Jazmine Bogie of Burke was introduced by Wellington as a young music aficionado whose tastes include many styles of music, but who was treating the crowd to a melodic country tune called “Strawberry Wine.”
Jordan Barbour of Barnet shared her original song, which she said in an earlier interview came from teenage angst, “Stars in The Sky (Unanswered).”
Natalie Ely of Lyndon shared a beautiful version of “When I Was Your Man.”
Rozalynd Ahlmann of Lunenburg performed “Heavy,” toward the program’s conclusion. Before the show, she said being in the Rising Stars event “means a lot to me, to have a chance to be able to perform in front of an audience.”
While every performer saw the crowd offer warm response, applause, and a few saw standing ovations, perhaps the musician who touched the crowd the most was Owen Marcotte, 10, of Barnet, who played bass with a few other young musicians, drawing thunderous applause when Wellington asked his age, and he held up both hands to show on his fingers that he was ten!
As the crowd left the theatre, rave reviews were overheard everywhere.
Nola Beck of Lyndonville said, “There’s a lot of talent! You wouldn’t know if you don’t go to shows like this!”
“It was awesome!” said Gale Galvin of Lyndonville. “The kids were fantastic!”
Members of the Kingdom All Stars band who performed on Saturday were: Jonah Socks, Liam Ryan, Aden Marcotte, Cameron Clark, Zane Mawhinney, Liza Morse, Ava Marshia, Sam Giguere and Katherine Barney.
The Caledonian-Record gratefully thanks the sponsors who helped to make this year’s Rising Stars event possible: Passumpsic Savings Bank, St. Johnsbury Academy, Catamount Arts and the Autosaver Group.