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Florence-Carlton High School will hold its 18th Annual Café Chocolat production by combined choirs and the Florence-Carlton Shakespeare Company on March 16.

The theme is “Going Places.” The show features a range of genres involving worldwide geographical locations.

Amy Smart, choir director and event coordinator, explained where the idea of the theme came from and the importance of café to the school's choir and drama programs

“The idea for this year’s Café Chocolat was something that Mr. Schmidt and I came up with together,” Smart said. “It was something we started planning before the end of the last year. This is the 18th year that Florence-Carlton High School has put on this event and we wanted to make it feel like a true collaboration between both the choir and drama programs. This is an event that is recognized by our community, looked forward to by our students and patrons, and showcases a different side of our student population.”

This year, Café Chocolat will not only include astounding music, but the Florence-Carlton Shakespeare Company will be performing a play written by director, Derk Schmidt, that runs between each song.

It features a fictional family, created by Schmidt several years ago, named the Bickerson’s traveling across the country from Stockholm, Maine, to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The family’s mother, Lonnie, played by senior Phoebe Hall, has a need for caffeine to keep her alert, so they stop repeatedly at coffee shops where a disguised emcee who changes his name in each city, played by sophomore Jesse Sage, introduces the upcoming song and artist at an open mic night setting.

Smart knew it would be difficult to choose which performers would make the cut for the show.

“The biggest challenge in this endeavor is the fact that I can’t let every soloist into the show,” Smart said. “It’s very hard to turn anyone away because we have such talented singers who put themselves out there and do an audition. Another challenge has been the lack of time that our current school schedule has allowed for all of our ensembles to prepare together. Fortunately, we have students who will do what it takes to find time to practice with us.”

Schmidt will be accompanying several performers on guitar and Smart will be playing the piano.

As an added twist this year, the song “Havana” by Camila Cabello will be performed by Smart’s Modern Music class and will involve many instruments including melodicas (free-reed instruments that are a mix of harmonica and organ), boomwhackers (lightweight plastic tubes tuned by length), kazoos, ukulele and other instruments you might find in an elementary music classroom.

Smart described the variety of music that will be featured.

“You are going to hear a great variety of music that relates to our theme,” she said. “The concept of the show this year is a road trip of magnificent proportions. The songs all relate to travel and places with a little bit of country, a little bit of jazz, a little bit of pop, and even some original musical arrangements. This is not your average choir concert.”

Schmidt explained the significance of the event for himself and his drama class.

“We have an incredibly strong performing arts community here in Florence,” Schmidt said. “I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Mrs. Smart and her choirs. Café provides a great platform for our actors to enhance an already great vocal show. The script was fun to write because the geographical locations in the songs tell a story. The song ‘Route 66’ provided inspiration for several stops from Chicago all the way to L.A.”

In addition to directing, Schmidt commented on his musical additions to the show and said that performing live music is the best.

“Live music is something that transcends boundaries. People of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures have a universal connection through music,” Schmidt said. “Mrs. Smart and I love the opportunity we have to work with students to arrange and perform live music. This show provides an incredible forum for students to feel like they are headlining a concert. The gym is transformed into an arena. The lights, the sound, and the applause give these students an unforgettable and empowering feeling.”

Smart said this year’s show will take this event to a new level of entertainment and community members should attend.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to see students from our community shine in ways they don’t get to every day or in every concert or performance,” Smart said. “Patrons of the show are treated to delicious desserts from cookies, cakes and pies to delectable cheesecakes. There are also family-friendly beverages that are served by hard-working middle school choir students who applied and volunteered for the opportunity to work at each show. Café Chocolat is a feast for your belly, your eyes and your ears. You do not want to miss it!”

The 18th Annual Café Chocolat will have two shows at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on March 16 in Florence-Carlton’s Old Gym with complimentary desserts, coffee and Italian sodas.

All proceeds go to Florence-Carlton School Music Boosters, an organization supporting FCS choirs and bands.

Tickets cost $15 for the general public and $12 for seniors over age 65, students, children, and Florence-Carlton faculty and staff. Ticket will not be sold at the door but must be purchased in advance. For information about purchasing tickets email Amy Smart at smarta@florence.k12.mt.us

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