December 6, 2012

Young artists expose humanitarian side

Young artists expose humanitarian side


---- — CHAZY — It was a three-hour name game before Paige Garnot, Alex Mesick, Maeghan McDonald and Patricia Coupal settled on Mezzo Misses.

The vocal quartet, directed and accompanied by Kathy Kokes, needed a moniker for their debut in Saturday’s “Home for the Holidays: An Evening of the Arts,” which benefits the Champlain Valley Habitat for Humanity. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at Chazy Central Rural School.

The idea for the quartet to perform was McDonald’s; her mother is on the Champlain Valley Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors.

The girls are involved in Chazy Music Theater.

“When we all auditioned and got in, we all had similarities, especially in singing,” Garnot said. “We’ve all been in All State and All County. We all love singing. Maeghan asked the three of us if we wanted to sing as a quartet. We’ve been rehearsing ever since. We’ve grown as friends since we started doing this, too.”


“Home for the Holidays” offers a venue for student-performing artists, who have few such outlets in comparison to their athletic peers.

Saturday’s program includes the Adirondack Dance Company, Saranac High School Select Chorus, Center Stage Dance, Plattsburgh High School Select Vocal Ensemble and ALEE String Quartet. Professional entertainers include After Five Brass Quintet and Oh! Betty.

“The discrepancy in what the kids in performing arts are allowed to do is so obvious,” said Stephen McDonald, Maeghan’s father. “We think it’s a benefit for local Clinton County high-school kids serious about the arts. They are dedicated and practice. Give them a venue to perform to an appreciative audience. Let these kids perform to benefit a nice charity. It’s a really cool combination.”

Decimated school budgets made it prohibitive for some schools to participate without the funds for a bus and driver to transport the students to the event.

Garnot, a junior at CCRS, is cognizant of the bad economy and its impact.

“I think it’s nice for us to give back,” she said. “I think if we have a talent we can give to benefit someone else’s life, especially around the holidays, it’s really important. We can get together to make a difference.”

In the Mezzo Misses, Garnot alternates between alto 1 and alto 2.

“Patricia is also an alto,” she said. “Alex and Maeghan are both sopranos. We have three Christmas songs. ‘The Prayer of The Children’: that will be a good one, really powerful. ‘Mary Did You Know?’ is more solemn, not on the happy side. Our last one is ‘Santa Baby.’ We do a little hand movement, a little choreography. That one is fun to show our talent a little bit.”


The ALEE String Quartet’s name is an acronym of founding members Amy DeMane, Laura Merrill, Emily Allen and Eunice Choe.

“We actually were not going to go with that name,” Choe said. “We started in the winter of 2009. The Chazy Music Theater was doing ‘West Side Story,’ and all four of us were in the pit for that.”

The quartet tossed around the Stop Sign Quartet and the Gang Member Quartet. Then, someone suggested an acronym. Allen looked up alee in a dictionary and discovered it meant happy or musical.

“We said, ‘That’s perfect,’” Choe said.

Parental pressure by Choe’s mom led to the quartet’s formation. Originally, Choe’s mother wanted her violinist daughter and trombonist son to perform.

“She was in nursing school,” Choe said of her mother. “I called my friend Amy and said, ‘We should play a duet together. We’ve played together since the seventh grade.’”

Merrill and Allen joined the duo, and the quartet debuted at Meadowbrook Healthcare. Afterward, they decided to continue playing.


“We got an official gig at Lake Forest,” Choe said. “We played there for two hours for a Christmas party they were having for residents. We started getting calls.”

DeMane and Choe’s violin/viola instructor Elizabeth Gorevic recommended the quartet to anyone seeking musical entertainment at churches, weddings and parties.

Choe, a Plattsburgh High School senior, is also a member of the Adirondack Dance Company under the direction of Kathy Koester, the originator of Evening of the Arts programming.

Maeghan studies ballet with Koester, whose dancers wanted to stage a benefit-holiday event, which coincided with Habitat for Humanity’s need for a winter fundraiser.

“The past three or four years, she invited our quartet to play,” Choe said. “Habitat for Humanity was her idea. It’s a good feeling to be able to help someone using a talent my parents forced me into learning. Now, it’s actually being used for good. Eight years of playing violin, playing for so many quartets and orchestras, it’s good to be at this level.”

Andrew Caswell (violin), Anna Sardella (cello), DeMane (viola) and Choe comprise the quartet now.

“Most of our gigs are free,” Choe said. “That’s what we’re about: doing community service.”

Caswell, a junior at Peru Central School, loves quartet playing.

“It’s a really fun music experience to do that,” he said.

As well as raising money for people dreaming of a home to call their own.

“It’s a talent not a lot of people have, and it’s good to use it for a good cause to give someone a home,” Caswell said.

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IF YOU GO WHAT: "Home for the Holidays: An Evening of the Arts," a benefit for Champlain Valley Habitat for Humanity. WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday. WHERE: Chazy Central Rural School. ADMISSION: $10 at the door. Tickets are available at the Party Factory in Plattsburgh Plaza and Ace Hardware Store in Champlain.