Manatee High's women's ensemble readies arrangement of national anthem for McKechnie Field

vmannix@bradenton.comMarch 5, 2012 

BRADENTON

It’s going to be a grand affair as spring training games go.

The New York Yankees at McKechnie Field on Tuesday to play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Gorgeous weather. Capacity crowd.

Manatee High School’s women’s ensemble singing our national anthem.

Alexa Velez can’t wait. “It’ll be a pure adrenalin rush,” said the freshman soprano.

Joy Lakin is amped. “We’re motivated to show the community what we can do,” said the senior soprano.

Allie Leydon feels it, too. “I want to see how people react to hearing something so different,” said the junior alto.

Thirty-two strong, the women’s ensemble will treat the crowd to a majestic “Star-Spangled Banner” that was a show-stopper at the Pirates’ public auditions on Jan. 28.

It was arranged by MHS choral director Tommy Jomisko, who borrowed from a harmonized version sung by the Dixie Chicks to create a captivating version that moves the melody around the entire ensemble.

“Most of the time the first sopranos always sing melody and everyone has to harmonize with them,” he said. “Here it starts with the second sopranos, then goes to the altos and then to the first sopranos.

“It gives each section their own moment to shine.”

It’s a lofty rendition, for sure.

The MHS women’s ensemble has performed it at Hawkins Stadium for Hurricane home football games, but never at McKechnie Field.

“It’s definitely different than what people are used to hearing,” said Rebecca Sharp, a junior alto. “You wouldn’t expect it to come from high school girls.”

“When you think of the national anthem, you don’t necessarily think of a group,” said Tessa Geier, a junior alto/soprano. “But it displays the different ways voices work together and it works perfectly.”

Allie Leydon is enthused. “I love this arrangement. It’s awesome,” she said. “It’s not just a melody you’re sharing. It’s multiple parts and multiple voices. Beautiful voices.”

“We’re really strong singers,” said Victoria Sperounes, a sophomore soprano.

That’s what Jomisko believes will impress the McKechnie crowd when they hear the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“It’s different but it’s not showy, either,” he said. “I know some people don’t like singers who do all the big runs and add all the extra notes to the melody, but we don’t.

“I think the girls sing it so beautifully and have such beautiful tone quality, it’s hard to judge high school girls who are willing to stand in front of you and perform the national anthem, regardless of the arrangement.”

It’s going to be an experience.

For the crowd.

For the ensemble.

“I think we’ll surprise some people,” said Anna Whitehead, a freshman soprano.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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