Wilton High graduates Singing through the years
Their voices reach amazing heights. The harmonies are tight. The songs they sing can inspire and amaze. Some of them — 10, to be exact — graduated from Wilton High School and sang in choruses in school.
They are the Wilton Singers, and they are getting ready to host their annual holiday concert on Dec. 6 and 7.
The dinner and concert, Noel: A Christmas Feast, will be held at WEPCO with doors opening at 6:40 and the concert beginning at 7. Tickets are $60.
The 10 Wilton graduates — Jack Wallace, Kevin Murray, Janet Lofink Nobles, Tracy Patrick Smith, David Caffrey, Suzanne Thawley Jeschke, Vivian Lee-Shiue, Alison Wood, Alison Conroy, and Jenna Wilkinson Roche — left school between 1979 and 2007.
They spanned teachers from Elisa Getto, who was the original director of the Wilton Singers, to Patrick Taylor, who is the current conductor. Mr. Taylor is also the director of choirs at Greenwich High School, where he won a distinguished teacher award. He was a choir teacher in Wilton for 10 years.
Mr. Smith, who has remained friends with Ms. Getto, graduated in 1979.
“I am, unfortunately, the oldest of the group,” he said. “I have been singing since the second grade and professionally since the age of 15. I am currently a professional piano tuner/technician; however, I still make a large portion of my income from singing. Singing is part of my soul and I will continue to sing until I drop.”
This passion for singing is a thread that goes through each of the performers.
“I love singing with this group of people, and I love the fact that in the Wilton Singers we explore a diverse range of musical styles,” Ms. Conroy said. “Choral music is more than just singing. It’s listening and blending and working together to create something beautiful and intricate.”
“I love singing because it’s a gift that feels so natural and is also challenging at the same time,” Ms. Jeschke said.
Several of the Wilton graduates relayed their various thoughts to The Bulletin via email. Asked if they had any stories to relate from their years together, Ms. Nobles said there were “too many to get started,” while Ms. Roche went with a teasing answer: “A couple, but I probably shouldn’t tell them.”
Ms. Jeschke joined the group last year, but her father, Phil Thawley, was a member of the Singers from 1992 to 2008. She had a chance to perform with her father when she was in high school and he was in the Wilton Singers.
“When I was in Wilton High School Madrigals, I sang a duet with my dad at an Elizabethan Feast, which seemed overly cheesy at the time, but a really special memory to me now,” she said. “The group, and most of its members, are like a family to me, and while I only joined the group last year, it feels as though I’ve been singing with them for 10 years.”
Ms. Roche also experienced that opportunity to perform with the Wilton Singers as a member of the Wilton High School Madrigals.
“I was exposed to excellence in choral singing at a young age,” she said. “It set the bar high. Truly rewarding choral singing requires talent and dedication among the singers and incredible attention to detail in a director.”
She added three things that continue to drive her to participate in the Wilton Singers: to never stop singing, the excellence of the voices, and the legacy they have.
“There just aren’t that many experiences in life that give you that continuity,” she said. “This group that knew me as a child has also seen me fall in love, get married, and become a mother.”
Ms. Conroy, a member of the 2013-14 Wilton Singers board, emphasized that while they are all still performing, it is more than that.
“It’s not just that we are still singing,” she said. “It’s that we are all singing with the Wilton Singers.”
The Wilton Singers is a nonprofit organization that offers two scholarships to Wilton High School seniors who have demonstrated music leadership. They also support the choral program at the school.
“We are very proud of our continuing connection to the Wilton High School choral music program,” Ms. Conroy said. “The current Madrigals perform with us at our Holiday Feast. Not only do the Wilton Singers support the high school program by providing two scholarships to graduating Madrigal singers each spring, but through our joint concert we have the opportunity to show the students that there’s a place for singing whether or not they pursue music professionally.”
With the concert and feast, a CD coming out in December, and a party every Tuesday night after rehearsal, the performers feel a bond. Ms. Conroy said there are approximately 40 members overall, with ages stretching from the 20s to the 70s. Still, she added, the group feels ageless when they are together.
The joy of singing and the general camaraderie of the group is what bonds us all together,” Mr. Smith said. “There’s an amazing energy we all share during each rehearsal and performance. The Wilton Singers have, and always will, feel like family to me.”
Ms. Nobles not only talked about being proud of her Wilton heritage but said that as teacher in town since 1992, she can share a connection with each of her fellow Wilton alumni.
“Tracy Smith was a singer I looked up to growing up in Wilton,” she said. “Kevin Murray was my next-door neighbor, and his mother was my voice teacher. Alison Conroy and Jack Wallace were Madrigals when I was a freshman.
“I remember that Jack was the lead in Oklahoma! and I was in the ensemble. Jenna was a year younger than me — I loved singing with her in high school. Suzanne and Vivian were students of Patrick Taylor’s when he taught at WHS.
“David and Alison Wood were students of mine at Middlebrook School and students of Patrick’s at WHS. Patrick and I sang together and have been good friends since 1990.”
That bond is comparable to that of a sports team, Ms. Roche added. She likened it to soccer, with its constant passing and the knowledge of where each member of the team is. Just one misstep can derail everything.
“We all trust each other to keep with our director, learn our music, and most importantly, listen to each other — it is absolutely essential,” she said. “The product of a unified, blended sound is absolute magic. Being a part of it resonates in your belly like nothing else. It is that shared feeling of producing an incredible sound, together, that is the bond between us.”
For more information on the Wilton Singers, including small samples of their singing, visit wiltonsingers.com.