2018-08-16 / Front Page

Talent show turns 29 tonight

BY MATT WUNSCH


Jeffrey Gravdahl, a member of the Jamestown Everybody Chorus, auditions Sunday as a solo artist. The talent show is tonight at the recreation center. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Jeffrey Gravdahl, a member of the Jamestown Everybody Chorus, auditions Sunday as a solo artist. The talent show is tonight at the recreation center. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Judging by Sunday’s auditions, there will be a wealth of vocal talent on stage tonight during the 29th annual talent show.

Sponsored by the Jamestown Community Chorus, the fundraiser has provided local entertainers with a venue to showcase their talent in front of family, neighbors and crosstown friends since 1990. With performers from grammar school to the senior center, the acts have ranged from Yo-Yo Ma to yo-yo tricks. This year’s show is titled “Bayside Bonanza.”

“We have no idea who is go- ing to show up from year to year,” said B.J. Whitehouse, chorus director, prior to auditions. That roster wasn’t set until the second day of auditions, Tuesday, was through.


Following her performance with the Jamestown Everybody Chorus, May Morris sang a solo rendition of Toni Price’s “Swim Away” at her audition for tonight’s show. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Following her performance with the Jamestown Everybody Chorus, May Morris sang a solo rendition of Toni Price’s “Swim Away” at her audition for tonight’s show. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN According to Whitehouse, the two-day audition process is nothing like television reality shows, including “American Idol.”

“Generally speaking, almost everyone makes it,” said Whitehouse, just before sitting down at the piano to lead the Jamestown Everybody Chorus through an animated performance of “I Won’t Grow Up.” “We are looking for a balance.”

Several members of that chorus also auditioned individually, including Jamestown resident May Morris, who breezed through a rendition of Toni Price’s “Swim Away.” Morris, a member of the community chorus since 1989, said singing a cappella differs greatly from the group experience.

“It’s scary,” she said. “When I am singing in a group, I try to think of the songs that we’re singing as this great, homemade present that we’re giving to the audience. So, I try to keep in mind that it’s not about me, it’s about the music. But it is kind of scary when it’s just me up there.”

Morris is a self-taught musician who credits Whitehouse with improving her vocals.

“Any training I’ve gotten is from people like B.J. who just sort of give you tips on how to use your voice,” she said.

Guitarist Philip Reilly was the only performer Sunday providing his own accompaniment. A frequent contributor to the talent show, he sang and strummed his way confidently through “Night Moves” by Bob Seeger. Whitehouse was quick to point out how much Reilly has developed as a musician throughout the years.

“Philip has really blossomed since becoming involved with this organization,” Whitehouse said. “I couldn’t be more proud of anyone than I am of Phillip and his parents.”

Closing out the first round of tryouts was Newport resident Jimmy Winters, who sang along to a prerecorded backing track of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” Winters, a retired community officer with Newport Police Department, actively advocates for homeless Aquidneck Island residents.

As a vocalist, Winters said he gravitates toward singers like Greenwood, Tom Jones, Nat King Cole, Bruno Mars and Engelbert Humperdinck. His repertoire includes traditional arrangements of “Amazing Grace” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I sing with Larry Brown’s orchestra and also perform at local cafes and at funerals, weddings and special events,” he said.

Those special events include the talent show, and he will likely appear tonight for the fourth time.

“I like singing here in Jamestown,” he said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”

For Whitehouse, who will celebrate 30 years as director in 2019, the talent show is about variety, inclusion and uniqueness.

“We try to keep a balance between ages and different kinds of acts,” he said. “We’ve had jugglers, storytellers, magicians, dancers.”

As for the most memorable acts during his tenure, Whitehouse reminisced about a renowned yachting cinematographer who changed career paths late in life.

“One of my favorites was John Biddle, who at the ripe old age of 70-something decided he wanted to be a clown. So, we’ve had some unique acts over the years.”

The show beings at 7:30 tonight at the recreation center, 41 Conanicus Ave. The production also includes a raffle, with prizes including prepaid Visa cards worth $50, $100 and $150. Raffle tickets are $1 each, $5 for 6 or $10 for 15. Admission is $7. Senior citizens and children receive a $2 discount. There also is a family package for $20.

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