PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Though there were more women vying on March 9 for a spot in the Northern Star finale, the three advancing soloists and the group act were all males.
Formerly known as Aroostook Idol, the popular international singing contest is a fundraiser for the United Way of Aroostook. The second regional show — featuring singers from central Aroostook and Victoria County, New Brunswick — was held at the Presque Isle Middle School auditorium.
The top two audience vote-getters were Lance Albair of Woodland and Josh Doughty of Presque Isle. The judges’ wild-card pick was Todd Corey, also of Presque Isle. Doughty and his friend Dan Rooney, who also competed as an individual, were the group winners of the local competition. The winners advance to the finale where they will compete against other winners from other regional shows in Houlton and Fort Kent. The overall group winner will be called “Northern Stars United,” while the individual winner will be the “Northern Star.”
The judges at the Presque Isle event were Dan Ladner, Rod Thompson and Cissy Libby. By audience applause, Thompson was selected to judge at the finale. The show was co-hosted by Jason Parent and Claudia Stevens, executive director of the United Way of Aroostook.
Albair sang “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.
“That’s one of my particularly favorite songs and it scares me to death when I see that someone’s going to sing it because there are so many places that it can go wrong,” Libby said, “but your dynamics were wonderful. When you talk about ‘the major lift,’ I was lifting right with you. You knocked it out of the park with that song.”
“The voice that you have is a God-given gift,” Ladner said. “A beautiful, beautiful voice and you know how to use it well. I don’t know of anybody that doesn’t like that song, but you really put it across well. Nicely done.”
The deep-voiced Doughty wowed both the judges and the audience with “Long Black Train” by Josh Turner.
“I almost fell off my chair when I heard your voice,” Libby said. “There’s nothing forced about it; it’s just so natural. When you had to sing higher notes, they were charming, too. Your range is wonderful. I have goose bumps on my arm. I cannot get over that voice.”
“I haven’t heard a voice like yours for a long time. That bass range is just so rich and full … fantastic,” he said. “What a gift you’ve got there young man. I hope you sing forever.”
Thompson, who was equally pleased with Doughty’s performance, offered only one suggestion.
“You had the audience right at your fingertips. There’s a little interlude in the middle of the song and I would have encouraged them to clap their hands and stomp their feet because I think they would. That would have broken up that interlude, but other than that,” he said, “a wonderful job.”
Corey, who accompanied himself on the guitar, impressed the judges with his rendition of “Free” by the Zac Brown Band.
“That was charming. You have a wonderful, wonderful voice and you’re a very smart man about the music you picked,” Libby said. “Your range was absolutely perfect in that key. It was really great. You never felt forced, and you never lost it. I enjoyed it very, very much.”
“You were really in control of that song … more than anybody so far, and that is impressive,” Thompson said. “I’m working on a commercial; I may call you.”
Ladner, who remembered hearing Corey sing last year, said he sounded better this time around.
“I thought you were even better tonight,” he said. “You sound better, you were confident, your choice of song was perfect and the key was good and showed off your voice. I can’t say enough about it; you did a fantastic job.”
One of only two group acts performing, Doughty and Rooney won over the audience as they sang “Fishin’ in the Dark” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
“You guys looked like you were having so much fun, and that comes over to the audience,” said Ladner. “We had fun, too. It was fabulous, guys. The harmony was good, the diction was clear, the pitches were perfect; nice job … keep singing together.”
When asked if they’ve been singing together long, Rooney said they’re part of a band Rooney & The Revolvers.
Though happy with their performance, Thompson suggested they work on their stage presence.
“I would love to see you two guys sing that song and start out with mics on mic stands and then take the mics off and move around a little bit. I think it would add a little bit to your stage presence,” he said. “Great job.”
The Northern Star finale pitting the regional winners against each other will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 25, at the Caribou Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 and are available at all KeyBank branches and at the United Way of Aroostook office at 480 Main St., third floor, 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 $470,000. 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 $180,000 to benefit agencies funded by the United Way in Aroostook County.
For more information on the Northern Star competition, contact the United Way of Aroostook at 764-5197.