BEMUS POINT – Any doubts as to whether the 2014 SE93 Chautauqua Lake Voices competition would kick off on schedule dissipated along with the clouds that had lingered above Bemus Point on Monday evening.
The annual vocal competition, now in its 11th year, went off without a hitch as the 12 contestants to proceed through the audition process took to the floating stage in Bemus Point to introduce themselves and their singing proficiencies to spectators in and around the Italian Fisherman.
Formed in 2004 as a collaborative effort between Bemus Bay Pops and Media One Group, Chautauqua Lake Voices has become a staple in the region for more than a decade – featuring the talents of more than 100 area performers over that period. According to Andrew Hill, of Media One Group and competition host, the event is consistently stiff among participants but area residents can’t seem to get enough of the six-week series.
“It’s amazing that we are still producing this popular competition 11 years after the floating stage was introduced to the community,” Hill said. “I think people keep coming back each year because they like to adopt their favorite (singer) and see how they improve from week to week.”
“The 12 singers (this year) are very good,” he added. “We have a few singers who have competed in the show before, and certainly will have an advantage over the other competitors, but the great thing about this show is that all of the singers are faced with the same challenges. They get limited rehearsal time with the band before the show, have to compete with the same outdoor elements and it really brings everyone to an equal playing field as the weeks continue.”
Each week, contestants must adhere to a specific theme in the selection of their songs. The first week’s theme was Disney, in which contestants sang a collection of songs from movies such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Pocahontas,” “Mulan,” “Enchanted,” and “Toy Story.”
The evening’s event was commenced by the ceremonial singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by last year’s competition winner, Michael Nugent. The program included performances by: Margie Nelson, who sang “Part of Your World”; Kristina Ruth, who sang “Ever Ever After”; Bryan Moore, who sang “You’ve Got a Friend In Me”; Ashley Paulus, who sang “The Climb”; Karina Simmons, who sang “Reflection”; Joshua Lucas, who sang “Kiss the Girl”; Victoria McIlvain, who sang “Colors of the Wind”; Kristina Bullock, who sang “Let It Go”; Rose Segal, who sang “I’m Almost There”; Andrew Panebianco, who sang “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”; Ashley Reefer, who sang “True To Your Heart”; and Dylan Carlson, who sang “Everybody Wants To Be a Cat.”
Following the performances, two contestants were eliminated by the judging panel of Tim Edborg, Patricia Newman, Michelle Paterniti and Andrew Minton. The first two participants to be eliminated in this year’s competition were Ruth and Panebianco.
The backing band for week one performances included: Steve Strickland, on keyboards; Paul Liuzzo, on bass; Jim Karapontso, on guitar; and Jim Foti, on drums.
The series will continue with its second installation Monday at 6:30 p.m., in which the remaining 10 contestants will sing a selection of songs appearing in the FOX TV show “Glee.”