Battle of the Blends XI, the annual a cappella extravaganza of the Maine Music Society, returns to Lewiston next weekend.

Six top-flight vocal groups will perform at 7:30 p.m. at United Baptist Church in Lewiston Saturday, Nov. 6. New this year is an afternoon workshop offered for area students.

The Battle of the Blends has become the largest a cappella showcase in northern New England, according to Judith Andrucki, who has been involved in the putting the event together since it began 11 years ago.

“I have no trouble getting groups because they love it so much,” she said.

The Battle of the Blends is an every fall fund-raiser staged by the Maine Music Society and Andrucki said it fits perfectly with one of MMS’s goals – to show off Lewiston-Auburn.

This year, the featured groups are Soundstage 7, Integration By Parts, the MIT/Wellesley Toons, Mt. Blue Voices, the USM Chamber Singers, and zing!

Andrucki, who was a member of the local group Top Forty, said Soundstage 7 is hosting this year. That was Top Forty’s role until the group gave up performing some months prior to last fall’s show.

Soundstage 7, formed in 1997, features three women and three men who perform whatever music takes their fancy, “as long as it’s fun, crazy, energetic, hip, or just plain groovy,” according to its promotional material. “We dig 1980s and 1990s pop tunes but our repertoire also includes neo-swing, soul, and funk, among other styles.”

New this year is a group called Integration by Parts from Boston. Andrucki describes the group as “really slick and cool.”

MIT/Wellesley Toons is a 16-member coed a cappella singing group comprised of MIT and Wellesley College students. It was founded in 1990. Along with its repertoire of cartoon songs, the group’s style includes everything from 1950s and 1960s music to the present.

The USM Chamber Singers, who represent the most outstanding singers at the University of Southern Maine, are chosen through a careful audition process. They have performed a diverse repertory centered on a cappella literature of the Renaissance era and the 20th century and music of various world cultures. In May 1999, the ensemble toured Europe, singing in some of the most beautiful churches of western Europe, including Notre Dame in Paris and the Karlskirche in Vienna. The ensemble received wide acclaim in April 2000 for a performance of the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Members toured Ireland, Wales, and England in May 2002.

The Mt. Blue Voices of Farmington is a mixed a cappella vocal ensemble under the direction of Dennis Hayes. This auditioned ensemble has performed three times at Disney World in the course of its 10-year history. This group performs a variety of choral styles, including pop, vocal jazz and blues.

Zing! is a women’s barbershop quartet with touches of jazz. Since February 1996 , tmembers have been registered with Harmony Inc., an international, nonprofit, educational and singing organization for women.

An addition to the November event is a half-day a cappella workshop offered by Soundstage 7 at the United Baptist Church for local high-school students. Members of Soundstage 7, under music director Greg Bowne, frequently offer workshops to students in the greater Boston area. Students in small groups will cover a variety of topics, including vocal percussion, arranging, improvisation and developing harmonies.

The L-A Fund provided a $500 grant for the workshop and the underwriting of tickets for high-school students who attend both the workshop and the concert. There is a nominal fee for the workshop. Those wishing to attend should contact the Maine Music Society at 782-1403.

Andrucki noted that the United Baptist Church is “a great space for vocal music.” She remembers one year when the power went off, but that’s okay, she said, because the groups sing without microphones. She calls it “no net – it’s just you and the audience.”

Advance tickets are $17.50 for adults and seniors. Tickets at the door are $20; children under 13 will be admitted free when accompanied by a parent.

Advance tickets are available at Lewiston-Auburn Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets, Mr. Paperback, and Nellie’s Music (formerly Mainely Drumz) in Lewiston; at Macbeans Music in Brunswick; or by calling the Maine Music Society at 782-1403. FMI: visit the society’s Web site at www.mainemusicsociety.org.


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