THORNDIKE — As Christmas nears, student singers from Mount View High School are helping to spread the holiday spirit through a series of concerts called “Carols in the Round.”

These performances are far from the standard school choir performance. At “Carols in the Round” shows, pews of audience members are surrounded by a circle of 16 music stands. Each student sings a carol from one of the stands and then rotates one stand to the right. This changes the sound for listeners with each song. Director Rebecca Childs described the event as “unique and powerful.”

“Being able to sit in the middle and be surrounded by the voices really creates this atmosphere of togetherness. Even just the formation really dictates that community collaboration,” Childs said. “That’s what’s different about music-making, is that the audience also senses that theme, whether it’s from the text we’re singing or even just from the spirit that the students carry of confidence. With singing, you rely on one another, and the audience gets to experience that too.”

Friday evening will wrap up the Mount View Chamber Singers’ 28th season of “Carols in the Round.” For the past 27 days, the group has performed 23 concerts in churches throughout central Maine. Twenty students comprise the group, with five in each vocal part: soprano, alto, tenor and bass. While only 16 perform at a time, a rotation ensures that each voice is heard. Many of the singers said that they auditioned for the group as much for the singing as they did for the companionship of peers.

“A lot of people in this group, if it weren’t for this shared interest in music and singing, I probably wouldn’t be talking to them,” said Thurston Illingworth, who has sung alto for the group for two years. “But it just brings us all together, and when you have things like carols — where we are with each other every day, we travel for hours with each other — it’s just really a good time to just connect.”

This is Childs’ first year of directing the Chamber Singers after taking over for founder David Stevenson. Stevenson had led the group for 27 years.


“Stepping into his position — (Stevenson) started many incredible traditions,” said Childs. “When I was first interviewed, (it) was made clear that it was very important to the students that those continue, and I now see why. They’re such rich experiences that I wish I had in high school. There’s really nothing quite like this.”

Throughout the program’s existence, the singers have toured nationally and internationally at prominent venues including Winchester Cathedral in England, the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica and the White House in Washington, D.C. They also have performed in Scotland, El Salvador, Hungary, Ireland and Costa Rica, as well as in New York City and California. Most recently, the Chamber Singers spent a week this April in Spain.

“There were times where we would just walk into a building and decide we want to sing here, and so we would,” Illingworth said. “But we did have one actual scheduled concert that a lot of people went to, and it sounded beautiful. It’s just really cool because a lot of tourists were there as well and just people in general, and you could just tell that when they got home the next day or the next week, if they were out of the country or whatever, that they’d be talking to their family, like, ‘Oh check out this video I recorded of this random, really cool choir that was just in the town.’ It made me feel really awesome.”

The high schoolers’ travel is funded entirely by audience donations and album sales. The Chamber Singers have recorded five albums, two of which will be available for purchase Friday.

After a long season of balancing homework and extracurriculars alongside participating in the choir, several members of the group paused to reflect on the last concert of 2018.

“It has a sense of finality for a lot of the kids,” said Jakob Sutton, a senior bass singer in the group. “There’s a lot of emotion in the last performance.”


Sophomore Austin Toole, who also sings bass, expanded on this.

“We’ve put a lot of work into this, and we really appreciate when our communities come and support us and see us,” he said. “We’re very, very, very grateful and blessed for all we have.”

Friday’s concert will take place at All Saints Episcopal Church on Malbons Mills Road in Skowhegan. It starts at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]


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