Local chorus to perform at Sox game

ADDISON COUNTY — The 40-some members of the Maiden Vermont women’s chorus have an important performance coming up this Saturday, and the choice of attire is an important consideration.
“It could take us a year to decide what color hat to wear,” chorus director Lindi Bortney said late last week. “Someone said we should wear the red hats, and then someone else said half of us should wear red and half should wear blue.”
For a group that regularly wows the crowds with its sparkling voices and pitch-perfect harmonies, the appearance will have a more important role than usual since the audience could possibly number in the millions. Maiden Vermont got word last week that the Boston Red Sox had chosen it to sing the National Anthem before the Major League Baseball team’s game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park this Saturday evening — a game that will be televised to most of the region on the NESN TV network.
“We are thrilled,” Bortney said last Thursday, two days after Red Sox Manager of Entertainment and Special Event Operations Dan Lyons called to give her the news. “We aren’t even to the scared part yet.”
Maiden Vermont was formed in 2004 and includes about 50 women who sing standard barbershop numbers plus doo-wop, swing, Broadway show tunes, spirituals and other tight-harmony pieces.
Bortney sent a CD of Maiden Vermont performances to the Red Sox last December as an audition for the club’s Vermont Day promotion. As he waded through around 80 submissions, the quality of Maiden Vermont’s singing caught Lyons’ attention. But in the end, it was their rendition of the Canadian national anthem that sealed the deal.
“One of the things I was also looking for was someone who could sing the Canadian anthem since we are playing Toronto that evening,” Lyons said. “Their performing it well did help me with my decision.”
The short notice has resulted in quite a bit of scrambling among the members of the chorus. After Bortney began to spread the word, one member emailed from the middle of the ocean and said she would come back for Fenway gig.
Another Maiden was camping in Acadia National Park in Maine, and happened to check her email on a trip into town. She said she will be there even if she has to take a water plane. Myriad engagements and trips have been canceled and rearranged.
The plan is for Maiden Vermont to charter a bus, arrive at Fenway Park for a microphone check at 2 pm. before batting practice, return to the stadium at about 6, and sing the anthems at 7.
Lyons said the before most games the singing of the anthems are not show live on TV, but often NESN broadcasts it later in the game between innings. In any case, more than 37,000 fans are expected to be in the stands, some of them there for Vermont Day.
Due to the short notice, the chorus has not been able to raise any funds for the trip. They had already scheduled a fund-raiser for Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Champlain Valley Universalist Society on Charles Street in Middlebury. But they will also look for other fund-raising opportunities and are seeking donations to defray the cost of the bus.
The group only has two rehearsals before their appearance at the big show, but members said learning the tunes is not an issue.
“We really know how to sing these songs, and we just sang both the U.S. and the Canadian national anthems at the Dragon Boat Festival last weekend,” said member Susan DeSimone.
She said the anticipation for the wide exposure they will get an Fenway Park, and the pride they feel for being chosen to represent Vermont was evident in the rehearsal at the Cornwall elementary school last Thursday.
“You could feel the electricity in the air,” DeSimone said. “We are all so excited.”
But don’t expect an attack of nerves to affect the performance once Maiden Vermont takes the field in Boston.
“We’re always on key,” DeSimone noted.
John McCright is at [email protected].

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