“Jammo, Jammo, n’coppa jammo jĂ .”
What is this mumbo jumbo Bertha Kennedy’s music students are singing? Is it pig Latin? No. They are belting out a line from Faniculi, Fanicula, an Italian song dedicated to Mount Vesuvius’ funicular cable car that was destroyed in a 1944 eruption.
The 31-member mixed choir, bursting with the chatty energy of students from grades 3 to 6, is rehearsing for a benefit concert with The PreTenors at the Arden Theatre on Saturday. And they’ve pulled some neat tunes out of their song catalogue — The Bare Necessities, Whistle a Happy Tune and Be Kind to Your Parents.
Leading the choristers is St. Albert resident Trent Worthington, a founding member of the PreTenors, a quartet that parodies operatic icons with just the right mix of beautiful music and pointed satire.
The PreTenors and the choir pair up for a one-night performance for the Friends of Bertha Kennedy School which installed a $300,000 playground. Although the Friends fundraised heavily for three years and received matching government grants, it still has a $60,000 loan to repay.
The PreTenors were formed about 16 years ago to make a few extra dollars on the corporate circuit. Since then they’ve stepped up to assist numerous community groups, including St. Albert Library, Father Jan School and St. Albert Alliance Church.
“Martin used to live in St. Albert. I live in St. Albert and if we can do something to help the community, that’s fantastic,” says Worthington.
His alter ego is Jose Whocarras, the middle tenor desperately vying for attention between an egotistical, over-the-top Luciano Paparazzi (Kieran Martin Murphy) and an obsessively vain Placebo Domingo (Michel Landry). Adding a few more notes of hysteria is the eccentric pianist Zubin Maytag (Joachim Segger).
A typical concert begins with several operatic numbers, possibly Nessun Dorme, La Donna e Mobile or even O Sole Mio. But just as the audience is wondering what they’ve got themselves into, the tuxedo clad Paparazzi sneaks a non-stop stream of snacks from his pocket.
Worthington adds that spontaneity and improvisation are a large part of the one-hour show’s charm. “Martin is in charge and we never quite know how it’s going to be — even to the very second it happens. Sometimes we’re as surprised as the audience.”
And the Friends of Bertha Kennedy School are counting on the tenors’ entrenched reputation and showmanship to help repay their loan from an anonymous benefactor, says Friends’ secretary Tracy Kociuba.
“This project has brought a lot of people together. We’ve had a lot of people come out and help, and when a group like The PreTenors comes out to help, it gives you a real boost to keep going,” Kociuba explains.
The old playground area would flood every spring and organizers put in a completely new drainage system of weeping tiles, foundation, retaining walls, sand and sidewalks.
Old, outdated playground equipment was removed and new play areas integrated with saucer swings, a merry-go-round, four slides, ramps, climbing stairs, bridges and swing bars were installed.
“The whole main level is wheelchair accessible. We poured a rubber foundation on the wheelchair side so you don’t get stuck in the sand. From the wheelchair ramp, there’s puzzle games that are built into the wall.”
Kociuba, a mother of two active young boys who has seen a PreTenors performance, encourages everyone to attend the family event.
“The funniest, most amazing point is when Martin belts out a perfectly pitched note with food in his mouth. We are really excited about having them here.”
Saturday, March 20 at 7 p.m.
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $25 Call 780-419-2043 or 780-459-0413