WILLIAMSTOWN -- Audience members of Wednesday night's middle school spring concert at Mount Greylock Regional School may find themselves on a Rocky Mountain high, when the young musicians pay tribute to American folk singer-songwriter John Denver.
On Monday, students in the chorus and string orchestra participated in a master class and rehearsals with Ted Vigil, a singer-songwriter and tribute artist who bears an uncanny resemblance to John Denver.
In addition to being a musician, Denver became a notable humanitarian and environmental activist during his lifetime. He died in a plane crash in 1997 at age 53.
Mount Greylock's choral director, Kate Caton, said Vigil's three-day residency is the culmination of a first-of-its-kind program at the school called the "John Denver: Art, Music, and Environmental Awareness Project," supported by the Williams Community Fund.
The program has been a joint venture between the school's environmental science, art, and music departments, and a senior project conducted by student Arianna Bashara.
During Wednesday night's concert, the group will also perform Denver's "Legacy of Song" with a slideshow display, depicting images related to the work Denver did concerning the environment, nature and the Berkshires. Mount Greylock science class students will also create narratives that relate to each song.
"It's a different kind of music than we usually play," said Miriam Pomerantz, a seventh-grader and viola player.
By contrast to Denver's music, this repertoire for the orchestra ranged from pieces like "My Favorite Things" from musical "The Sound of Music" and Handel's Aria from Xerxes.
Most of the choral students, however, said they were familiar with Denver's work.
"I actually have it on my iPod," said eighth-grader Hugh Sanford.
Vigil said he wasn't surprised. "I've had 3- and 4-year-olds brought onto stage who know ‘Calypso' word for word. It's really music that transcends generations," he said.
Vigil was born in Seattle and lives in the area of Olympia, Wash. He has been performing since the age of 10 in concert, symphonic, and jazz bands as a drummer and singer, and has been recognized as a Denver tribute performer since 2006.
"I think you sound great," Vigil told the students after Monday morning's master class. "I've never heard these songs sung this way and I've been doing this for many years."
The group discussed how to articulate the words of Denver's songs, keep on pitch, and most importantly keep the spirit of his songs alive and vibrant.
"Believe that ‘Country Road' song. If you believe it in your core, it will transform the audience," Caton, the choral director, advised her students.
The project made an impression on seventh-grade chorus member Grace Kelley: "It's one of those things you don't forget."
If you go
What: Mount Greylock Regional Middle School Spring Concert, featuring John Denver tribute artist Ted Vigil. This performance is free and open to the public.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Mount Greylock Regional School, Route 7, Williamstown.