PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Three brilliant soloists and one amazing brother-sister duo received their “golden tickets” Saturday night earning them spots in the finale of the Northern Star competition later this month in Caribou.
Formerly known as Aroostook Idol, the popular international singing contest is a fundraiser for the United Way of Aroostook. The second of three regional shows — featuring singers from central Aroostook and Victoria County, New Brunswick — was held Feb. 12 at the Presque Isle Middle School auditorium. The first regional show was held Feb. 5 in Houlton, and the last one to qualify participants for the finale was to be held Friday night, Feb. 18, at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
The top two audience vote-getters at the Presque Isle event were Dashawn Russell of Limestone and Cissy Buck of Caribou. The judges’ wild-card pick was Robert Helstrom of Washburn. With only one group act performing, Gabrielle and Christian Sirois of Drummond, New Brunswick, who sang “I Believe in You” by Il Divo, automatically advanced to the finale where they will compete against group winners from the Houlton and Fort Kent regional productions. The overall group winner will be called “Northern Stars United,” while the individual winner will be the “Northern Star.”
In a new feature this year, all three judges hail from central Aroostook, with the audience choosing one to move on to the championship round. Dan Ladner, Rod Thompson and Tamia Glidden served as judges, with Ladner selected to judge at the finale.
Russell wowed judges and audience with his rendition of “Ave Maria” by Beyonce.
“You have more than a good voice,” said Ladner. “You are a gifted, gifted singer. I haven’t heard a voice like that for a long time. Your falsetto — your high notes — unbelievable. I thought they were beautiful in the beginning, but when you hit those high notes at the end, I almost fell out of my seat. Just beautiful. Your gestures all came from within; they’re your spirit. I was very impressed.”
Buck sang “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. When asked by Jason Parent, co-host of the competition with Claudia Stevens, executive director of the United Way of Aroostook, “Where have you been for the past six years?” Buck responded, “The military … Texas, Alaska, California; we just moved up here in July.”
“When I saw you were going to sing an Alicia Keys song I thought, ‘That’s quite a challenge,’ but oh my, you did it justice,” Glidden said. “You have a beautiful, smooth quality to your voice. I really enjoyed it. Wonderful power and wonderful pitch.”
“Cissy, you sounded like a pro,” said Thompson. “You really did; that was great. Just great.”
Helstrom performed the Billy Vera classic, “At This Moment,” a song he performed before on the Aroostook Idol stage. At one point in the song, he approached the judges’ table and sang to Glidden.
“Robert, we had a moment, didn’t we?” she asked after his performance.
“Yes we did. I was hoping you felt that,” Helstrom said.
“It was great. I love that song,” said Glidden. “You are in great command of the stage; powerful.”
“I really enjoyed your talent and your maturity,” he said. “Great job.”
The judges all enjoyed the Sirois sibling act, as well.
“I’m so glad they’re going on in the competition,” said Ladner. “You’re just fantastic … both of you. To sing together like that is a real thrill. Wow, what voices you both have. Congratulations.”
The siblings also performed individually during the contest. Christian, 13, sang “Que L’amour est Violent” by Garou, while his 15-year-old sister, Gabrielle, sang “La Quete” by Jacques Brel.
Also providing entertainment during the evening was Isabelle Pelletier of St. Jacques, New Brunswick, who was crowned the first Northern Star last year. Pelletier, for whom French is her first language, sang “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” by Edith Piaf and the John Lennon classic “Let It Be.”
The Northern Star finale will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 27, at the Caribou Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 and are available at all KeyBank branches and at the United Way of Aroostook office, third floor, 480 Main St. in Presque Isle.
Proceeds will go to the United Way’s general fund, which helps support 20 area agencies and other United Way programs. This year’s campaign goal is $520,000. Since the United Way of Aroostook launched the original Aroostook Idol fundraiser, it has drawn more than 150 competitors to the stage. It also has raised more than $150,000 to benefit agencies funded by the United Way in Aroostook County.
For information on the Northern Star competition, contact the United Way of Aroostook at 764-5197.