By Stefanie Sears
Mt. Olive High School has something to sing about with the exciting news about its women’s ensemble being selected to provide background soundtrack vocals for an upcoming movie.
From composer Tim Janis comes a new heartwarming family musical film called “Buttons” starring Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury, along with an all-star cast.
Though Kate Winslet and Robert Redford provide the film’s narration, providing the BG soundtrack vocals in both the film and trailer is MOHS’s very own Advanced Women’s Ensemble, an elective that the school has been offering for six years now, thanks to some very convenient connections.
Set in a New England mill town in the early 1900s, the story follows a little girl named Annabelle, played by 11-year-old newcomer Alivia Clark, whose mother instilled in her the belief of angels and miracles. When tragedy strikes, a mysterious stranger (played by Dyke) then enters young Annabelle’s life and influences it for the better.
Director of Choral Activities and Student Achievement Team Leader for Music K-12 Matt Vanzini has been working with Janis for about eight or nine years now. He brought one of his choirs to perform for Janis’s PBS televised “Celebrate America With State School Choirs” program and his choirs also perform with Janis annually at Carnegie Hall for the Golden Hat Foundation Benefit Concert to raise autism awareness.
When Janis needed a choir for his movie, he knew that Vanzini was the guy to call.
The Advanced Women’s Ensemble was chosen in Spring 2017, and after Vanzini taught the girls the notes and rhythms, they sang along to the film’s orchestra music files that were given to them.
Interestingly, the recording, which took about two and a half years as they received more and music, took place on the ensemble’s own turf. Vanzini approached Mt. Olive Studios Head Engineer and Audio Engineering teacher Trevor Campbell about using the MOHS Studios, which was built in 2016 intended to replicate Power Station Studios in Manhattan with help from Ron Saint-Germain and Tony Bon Jovi, for recording sessions for the project. Campbell was happy to oblige.
“A few of the challenges we faced were scheduling and ambient noise,” said Campbell in an email. “Scheduling is always difficult because students have such hectic schedules. The ambient noise is a problem because some of the parts were very soft and even the slightest sound from a hallway or the work space above us could ruin a take. Other than that, the sessions went relatively well and the producers seem very happy with what we gave them.”
“Buttons” will play in about 100 to 200 select theatres on December 8, but it is also aiming for a nationwide release in 2019 if gained enough interest.
“The kids are pretty excited,” Vanzini says. “We’re all going to see the movie together that Sunday when it comes out.”