Martha's Vineyard Regional High School

“Music Street” brings sound to schools and shelters


Most year-round Islanders are resolved to the fact that while the summer affords multiple opportunities to enjoy performances by visiting artists, the off-season is a relatively quiet time for the arts.

This Friday, however, Vineyarders will have the chance to enjoy a vocal concert by two accomplished singers from Boston. An organization called “Music Street” will be hosting a public performance at the Performing Arts Center at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School on Friday morning at 11 am.

Two professional singers — soprano Bethany Worrell and tenor Sean Lair — will present a repertoire of music spanning the ages and genres. Accompanying them will be Diane Katzenberg Braun, a collaborative pianist for the New England Conservatory of Music. Through her affiliation with the acclaimed Boston music school, Ms. Braun has performed with and mentored a number of talented young musicians. The two that she has recruited for the Vineyard show are recent grads who have made names for themselves as singers on the national and international scene.

Bethany Worrell has performed as a soloist in Boston, Chicago, Malibu, Florence, Italy, and Salzburg, Austria, where she performed at the famed Schloss Mirabell Marble Hall. As a choral member, Ms. Worrell has also appeared at both Carnegie Hall in New York and Symphony Hall in Boston. Ms. Worrell has won a number of awards for her singing, both here and abroad. Commenting on her recent outing in Cosi Fan Tutte at Faneuil Hall, the Boston Music Intelligencer reported that Ms. Worrell “stole the show,” praising her “crisp voice and hilarious accents” and wrote, “Bethany Worrell has a gorgeous and flexible soprano that revealed a large measure of dramatic intelligence and musical acumen.”

Sean Lair has taken on roles in a number of classic operas and performed as vocalist for many chamber and symphony orchestras. He is also a champion of art song and plays the piano and organ. “He’s a very gifted musician,” says Ms. Braun, “He has a very, very clear tenor voice with beautiful diction.”

The Vineyard program, which Ms. Braun refers to as part of a “mini residency,” will include “English Art Song, operatic arias, a taste of the German tradition and some musical theater,” according to a press release. After the show, the three performers will be giving a master class to a few of the high school’s talented teen singers.

The program is a collaboration between Ms. Braun and Jan Wightman and Abigail Chandler of MVRHS.

Ms. Braun, who splits her time between her homes in Lincoln and Edgartown, is a member of the board of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society, which is supporting and promoting the high school concert. “We’ve been talking about chamber music, about how to better fulfill our educational mission,” says Ms. Braun.

The event is an extension of Ms. Braun’s recently founded initiative “Pianos to Shelters,” which brings donated pianos to shelters, and hosts concerts with musicians from the Boston area.

Ms. Braun and her two singers have performed twice at Boston shelters. Both concerts were well received and, in both cases, inspired some audience participation.

“The first shelter was tiny,” Ms. Braun said. “It was a very stormy night. People were straggling in and about ten people sat down. We played ‘The Vagabond,’ and a man stood up and conducted us perfectly throughout the whole song.”

At the second concert, a larger audience enjoyed the show. “They were very enthusiastic,” Ms. Braun said. “We got them all to sing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ and we heard a gorgeous mezzo voice from the back of the room. It was a woman who was a resident and also worked in the kitchen.”

Encouraged by the reception at the shelters, Ms. Braun hopes to bring her program to schools around the Boston area. The Vineyard performance will mark the first outing in a school setting.

Of the initiative Ms. Braun says, “It means a lot to all three of us. We’re very comfortable doing it, and we get a lot back from it.”