Friday May 4, 2012

DALTON -- Opera is getting the rock ‘n' roll treatment at Craneville Elementary School.

Today, Stephen Mercier's fifth-grade class will perform its sixth and final performance of "Sing for Bling," an original opera they produced to explore and educate audiences about different genres of music.

"We were going to do a battle of the bands-type show but ended up with something like ‘American Idol,'" said fifth-grader Julia Drury.

Now in its 15th year at Craneville Elementary School, the opera project is co-facilitated by Mercier, a former music critic, and music teacher Sherri Buxton. This year's project incorporated a couple of new elements, including the use of Apple's GarageBand software to produce original compositions on CD. "Sing for Bling" is also a show that's almost entirely sung.

The show features a range of acts hoping to win the night's competition. Each group or soloist in the opera represents a different musical genre. The students chose to portray the genres of heavy metal, disco, country, classical, blues and rap. Each group's song explains a bit about the history, sound and culture related to that genre.

"We made all the songs and wrote them together," said fifth-grader Dayton Kozlowski.

"They're teaching the genres," Buxton said.

For example, the country-singing quartet of Victoria Gamberoni, Abigail Steinman, Tess Walat and Allison Washburn, sang a twangy verse that goes like, "Country wasn't always country.


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Hillbilly was it's first name. Nashville changed it to Grand Ole Opry, and country's what it became."

The students also assembled their own costumes and accessories, from disco-era afro wigs and sequins to long black wigs and leather jackets to get into heavy-metal mode. Classroom parents also helped students create colorful music-themed backdrops.

Mercier said the other goal, aside from completing the project, was to help build students' confidence in working as a team and performing for an audience.

Said fifth grader Anna Duquette, "It's not your average class project, and everyone has a part in it."