Friday, April 28, 2006

Dondero Rocks

I first became aware of the annual a capella choir pop concerts at Royal Oak, Michigan's Dondero High School a few years ago when I heard their blazingly enthusiastic version of Sweet's "Fox on the Run" (1995). It's awesome to hear longtime classic rock standards given new life through the magic of student choral pop treatment. Which isn't to say they don't rock. In fact, I think the 1996 performance of "More Than a Feeling" comes close to out-Bostoning Boston.

Most of the songs they choose are well-known pop hits, but there are a few surprising deep cuts like Michael Nesmith's latter-day Monkees nugget, "I Won't Be the Same Without Her" (2000). Anyone who really knows me knows I love Chicago, and they were well represented at Dondero's 2001 concert with "Just You 'N' Me" and "Make Me Smile" (they actually pull off most of the "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" suite!).

Listening to these songs would make me want to go back to high school if I could go to Dondero and be in choir director Rick Hartsoe's class. If there had been something similar at my high school, I would've been much less likely to commit inane acts of mischief like setting fire to large appliance boxes full of garbage and mooning diners at Taco Cabana while a fellow miscreant yelled, "EAT THIS, YUPPIES!" over a cheap Radio Shack megaphone we'd purchased for just such an occasion.

Sadly, Dondero High School is closing at the end of this school year and Rick Hartsoe is retiring after 39 years of teaching. The 35th and final Dondero Pop Concert was held March 3 and 4, and a five-hour alumni reunion show took place the following week.

Now go to Comfort Stand Recordings to hear recordings of the 1995-1996 and 2000-2005 concerts, and be thankful for teachers like Rick Hartsoe.

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