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‘Socorro Sings’ Highlights Local Voice Talent This Friday

‘Socorro Sings’ Highlights Local Voice Talent

SOCORRO, N.M. – Nine talented singers will vie for a trophy and bragging rights – and a trip to New York City and an iTunes opportunity – when “Socorro Sings” comes to New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center. The finalists will kick off the competition at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1.

The highly-anticipated event unfolds under the umbrella of the New Mexico Tech Performing Arts Series (PAS) as a fundraiser to support its many outreach programs, such as youth concerts, NDI, Community Arts Party and the 4th of July Celebration.

Drum roll, please: In alphabetical order, here are the finalists culled from auditions held in September – Eli Armijo, Will Barefield, Rose Carilli, Julie Ford, Victoria Murillo, Jeanette Otero, Chynna Pearson, Val Thomas and Jenna Thunborg.

Click here for brief profiles of each of the finalists and the judges. 

At ages 10, 12 and 14, Otero, Thunborg and Carilli are the youngest performers – the eldest is teacher and chess player Barefield at 52, with everyone else falling between those parameters. Barefield and Armijo are the only male finalists.

The audience will choose the winner with votes, with the judges providing comments.

“We are obviously very excited about this event, which has been a long time in the making, and we are truly grateful to have Jonathan Gallegos and Emily Melville as host/emcee, judge and performers,” said PAS Director Ronna Kalish.

Due to conflicting schedules, Irish-pop tenor Eamonn McCrystal and his longtime collaborator Chloë Agnew, the original star of the hit group “Celtic Woman,” were unable to co-host the show as originally planned, although McCrystal did serve as a judge for the auditions and worked with the finalists, giving them tips on how best to showcase their talents.

Kalish credited McCrystal with his professionalism as a producer and offer of great prizes, which kicked off the event and set the high-quality tone from the get-go. The audition drew 41 hopefuls, two by video.

The ever-resourceful Kalish and her assistant, Dana Chavez, hustled to cover the bases in time for the Dec. 1 main event – with a great deal of help from Gaby Benalil, director of Tech’s Music Department, who wrote the medley arrangements, selected the songs and rounded up most of the instrumentalists; Benalil also is conducting rehearsals in the Jean Macey Recital Hall, and collecting backing tracks.

“We could not have done this without Gaby,” Kalish said. “She has really helped pull everything together.”

It was Megan McQueen, a music professor at NMSU and director of last year’s Scaffolding Theatre production of “Beauty and the Beast,” who recommended Gallegos to Kalish.

“Megan is an amazing actress and singer who I now work with a lot,” Kalish said. McQueen also is behind the musical, “Five Course Love,” a PAS event scheduled for Feb. 9, 2018. McQueen has performed with Gallegos in Las Cruces, and was one of three persons she recommended, but the only one in Albuquerque, who is a dynamite performer with a strong record of coaching.

“I wanted the vocal coaching element, and the emcee element, and the performance element, pretty tall order, and Jonathan has all this,” Kalish said. “He just finished up starring in the Rocky Horror Picture Show for Musical Theatre Southwest, by the way.  And Emily Melville has broad vocal adjudicating and performance experience, so I really lucked out.”

The evening offers up several special treats, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with Tech Club Macey hosting an Italian buffet, ticketed separately at $10. Please RSVP to 575-835-5688 to allow for advance planning.

Everyone who originally auditioned was invited to sing a medley of songs both to open and close the program.

“The quality and number of auditions was much higher than we expected,” Kalish said.  “About a third of those who auditioned, but did not make the finals, will sing the medleys.”

A selection of contemporary pop songs will kick off the program, with Christmas selections to close it. Gallegos and Melville will perform a collection of tunes, including a duet to “Love and the Weather” and “Love Didn’t Do You Right” from Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. Both will sing solos to theatrical songs, including “I Dreamed a Dream” (Melville) and “Bring Him Home” (Gallegos) from Les Miserables – plus an a cappella duet to “Oh Holy Night.”

Other solos are “Memory” from Cats and “The Wizard and I” from Wicked (Melville), and “I’m Going Home” from Rocky and Josh Groban’s “To Where You Are” (Gallegos).

The selections chosen by the finalists for their prime-time performance:

  • Eli Armijo, “Malagueña Salerosa” by Avenged Sevenfold;
  • William Barefield, “Evermore” from Beauty & the Beast;
  • Rose Carilli, “Losing You” by Alison Krauss;
  • Julie Ford, “Glitter in the Air” by Pink;
  • Victoria Murillo, “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keyes;
  • Jeanette Otero, “Someone Like You” by Adele;
  • Chynna Pearson, “Don’t Rain on My Parade” by Barbra Streisand and recorded by the Glee cast;
  • Valerie Thomas, “When We Were Young” by Adele; and
  • Jenna Thunborg, “How Far I’ll Go” from the film, Moana.

In addition to being a fundraiser, Socorro Sings is also a community-building event to show off the singing talent in or connected to Socorro, via New Mexico Tech and other local entities.

“After we did ‘Shall We Dance Socorro?’ last year, several people suggested we do one with an emphasis on voice,” Kalish said. Great idea, but with a small staff, PAS lacked the resources to plan and execute a full-scale singing competition.

Enter Eamonn McCrystal, who has a strong connection to Socorro and wanted to perform here, but he asked too late in the PAS planning cycle to fit a performance in as a subscription event. When McCrystal offered to donate his time, Socorro Sings moved from idea to reality.

“We hope to do something like this every year as a fundraiser,” she continued. “Next year we will probably do the ‘Shall We Dance Socorro?’ again, which was a huge hit.

“And maybe the year after, we will do ‘Socorro’s Got Talent,’ and have it run over a few sessions to narrow down finalists in several genres.”

The sponsors for this event are New Mexico Tech Auxiliary Services and Macey Center, which are donating rental space and tech support, and the Music Department is donating Gaby Benalil’s services and the Recital Hall for rehearsals.

Other sponsors are EMRTC, El Defensor Chieftain, State Farm Insurance (Damien Ocampo) and Jon Morrison, baker extraordinaire and longtime community volunteer.

Admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $10 for youths and $5 for New Mexico Tech students. Tickets also can be purchased online or at the following locations: PAS office, New Mexico Tech Cashier (Fidel Center), Socorro County Chamber of Commerce, Sofia’s Kitchen and El Sombrero.