Our series continues on finalists in Morristown Onstage 2019:
By Marion Filler
Many things are named after Alexander Hamilton – bridges, roadways, parks, buildings and, of course, a wildly popular Broadway musical.
But The AHNA Band surely is among the first musical ensembles to acknowledge this Founding Father, who, incidentally, courted his future bride in Morristown during the Revolution.
The acronym stands for the Alexander Hamilton Neighborhood Association, reflecting the community where all six members of the group have lived, raised families, and formed enduring friendships.
The AHNAs are finalists competing for cash and fame at Morristown Onstage, on Feb. 27, 2019, in the beautiful Mayo Performing Arts Center.
“We are friends from the neighborhood and interact frequently,” says Irene Avlonitis, who plays the violin “and if need be, a little percussion.”
These buddies often talked about pooling their musical talents. About a year ago, “we got the ball rolling,” she says.
“We took action and it has blossomed ever since. We started rehearsing at one neighbor’s house and then another’s, and finally settled in rehearsal space at the home of (drummer) Michael Aberback’s teacher, who has all the bells and whistles.”
The band will play I Will Survive, the 1978 classic by Gloria Gaynor. Everyone joins in on the vocals, in a performance with many moving parts. Instruments are not the exclusive property of any particular player.
“Chris Kirk is a jack of all trades, he is the most versatile. He can play the keyboard, guitar, banjo, and trumpet, and has been known to play the harmonica,” says Avlonitis, who has taught 1st- and 2nd grades at the Red Oaks School in Morristown for 25 years.
Scott Wild, a member of the Morristown zoning board, plays guitar. DJ Smith handles the bass, and Avlonitis’ husband, Douglas Vorolieff, a naturalist with the Morris County Park Commission, plays guitar and vibraslap.
A what? A vibraslap is a small, handheld percussion instrument, consisting of a stiff wire connecting a wood ball to a hollow wooden box with metal teeth inside. When the ball strikes the box, it makes a clicking sound. Smith heard it used by another band, and introduced it to AHNA.
The band will compete against 14 other finalists in Morristown Onstage, a fundraiser for the Morris School District.
More than 50 acts auditioned for this 12th edition of the show, which aims to top last year’s record of $143,000 raised for local school programs.
Organized by the Morris Educational Foundation, the competition is open to amateur performers who live, work or study in Morristown, Morris Township or Morris Plains, and to graduates of Morristown High School.
“We are having the time of our lives,” says Avlonitis. “There are no boundaries for the band, we keep stretching ourselves. Some of us spun off and started taking voice lessons, so it’s evolving.”
Alexander Hamilton would be pleased for sure.
Fifteen top amateur acts from Greater Morristown will compete for cash and glory in the 12th annual Morristown Onstage, on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. Tickets: $29-$79. Proceeds benefit the Morris Educational Foundation. Call 973-539-8008.