Thursday, May 19, WABAN, MASS.--The Newton Family Singers (NFS) celebrated their first anniversary with a concert of American folk music on last Sunday, May 15, with a concert held at the Newton Highlands Congregational Church. The program, “Sun, Moon and Stars,” was the third musical program presented by the group, which includes families from Newton and the surrounding towns of Lincoln, Cambridge, Jamaica Plain, Sharon and Arlington.
NFS is composed of 60 singers, ranging in age from four to 70+. Andy Rogovin and Monique Byrne, a married couple who live in Waban, founded the group last spring to provide a community-based musical outlet for their own children and local families with similar musical interests.
“We focus on traditional and contemporary folk music, generally sung in three-part harmonies and accompanied by a variety of acoustic instruments”
This year, NFS added something new: an all-kids band to accompany a few of the musical selections during the concert. Dubbed the “Newton Family Stompers,” this band includes two cellists (ages 11 and 5), two violinists (ages 9 and 6), a guitarist (13), a keyboard player (9) and even an 8-year-old ukulele player. The Stompers accompanied the larger group of child singers in the performance of an original song written by Gabe Rogovin, an eight-year-old singer, and his father.
“When forming the group, we hoped to give our children exposure to musical role models with diverse backgrounds and experience,”
But it’s not only about the kids. There are several adults who come to NFS looking to revive some of the fun they had before having a desk job and kids, when they sang in musicals or perhaps a college a cappella group, or played in local bands. Some of these folks have truly taken NFS’s mission to “make music a part of our daily lives” to heart. The dedicated NFS adult band, consisting of guitars, bass, viola, banjo, mandolin and ukuleles, meets weekly all year to work on the programs.
Unofficial NFS gatherings are another source of community, music and fun. This month alone, a group of singers gathered to play Rock Band, a few other groups formed to practice some very untraditional songs for upcoming open-mic nights at local pubs, another group is planning a night out at a Boston karaoke studio, and a few others enjoyed the touring production of Hair together. As Rogovin said at the beginning of the second NFS concert: “We began NFS to sing with our families. Now, NFS has become like a family.”
NFS singers are led in their endeavor by Joel Sindelar, a talented choral director with an infectious and energetic personality. Although his credentials are stellar (he is an MIT and New England Conservatory graduate), his style, sense of humor and goofiness draw in the group and keep them focused. Julia Priest, a local children’s music teacher, also joined the group this fall and has provided valuable assistance preparing children’s songs, giving more directed instruction to sections of the chorus and hitting those high notes.
Learn more about the Newton Family Singers on their website, www.newtonfamilysingers.org.