2018-07-05 / Around Town

Beach Idol Celebrates 11th Season

By Eliza Radeka

Beach Idol emcee, Mark Gorman with two of last year’s winners Sadie and Elise Flannery, 9-year-old twins. Beach Idol emcee, Mark Gorman with two of last year’s winners Sadie and Elise Flannery, 9-year-old twins. What started as an informal karaoke night more than a decade ago has blossomed into a weekly competition that encourages children to celebrate their musical talents. This summer marks Beach Idol’s 11th season at Easton’s Beach.

It starts July 12 and runs every Thursday night through Aug. 9. Children from 6 to 16 are invited to compete, and younger kids are encouraged to sing in an open mic during the first 15 minutes of each night. There are 10 available performance slots each night, but anyone on the waiting list will be guaranteed a spot for the following week. Sign-ups are at 6:45 p.m., with open mic for the younger kids from 7-7:15 p.m. and then the competition until 8 p.m.

A panel of three judges selects a winner each night. The winners advance to the Beach Idol Finals on Aug. 21, during the annual bonfire and end-of-summer celebration at the beach. Singers compete for the grand prize, which is a recording session at Stable Sound Studio in Portsmouth. Winners are based on singing ability, stage presence and personality.

Beach Idol singers show off a wide array of talents weekly, from choreographing dances in homemade costumes to playing instruments such as guitars.

Although judges and audience members are accustomed to hearing popular music, such as Taylor Swift’s “Let it Go” from the movie “Frozen,” past performers have sung opera, Broadway classics and even original music.

“Sometimes it is very difficult to choose the winner when there are so many talented competitors,” Beach Idol judge Maryann Jordan said.

“It takes a great deal of courage to get up and perform in front of a large crowd,” Jordan said.

Many children find that courage after several years of participating in Beach Idol. Barry Botelho, Beach Idol organizer and owner of the Easton’s Beach Snack Bar, has noticed improvement in singers who compete year after year, especially during the finals.

“We don’t always expect it, but you can really see the improvement,” he said. “My favorite part is the finale, because we see the kids who have worked so hard to be here. They get a taste of being a star.”

Performers in the finals sing in front of a crowd of about 1,000 people.

Hayley Virgadamo, the 2012 Beach Idol winner, said she was “really nervous” to go on stage, where she performed Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.” However, the grand prize made up for any pre-performance jitters.

“Getting to record in the studio was so great,” she said. “I loved it.”

Years ago, weekly singing at Easton’s Beach started as a karaoke night in an attempt to draw evening crowds.

Botelho, Jordan and emcee Mark Gorman have worked to create a fun experience for everyone involved. The addition of official rules and judges, as well as professional sound equipment, ensures that Beach Idol runs smoothly.

Botelho cues up the music while Gorman introduces the singers and tries to make them feel welcome, relaxed and excited to sing. Once judging has concluded, the winner receives a T-shirt as a prize.

Gorman hopes that Beach Idol will promote confidence in the kids who show up to sing.

“Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching kids progress as they improve each week,” he said.

Some participants have gone on to enroll in music programs in college, participate in additional studio recording sessions and perform musical theater with professional companies.

Gorman said the competition is all about “singing for the joy of it, trying to improve and making lots of new friends.”

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