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WMS choirs to perform tonight, Friday

A group of eighth-grade Worthington Middle School choir students rehearse a glow-in-the-dark performance of the Miley Cyrus song “Party in the USA.” Wednesday morning at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center. Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — If Cindy Anderson’s 270-some middle school singers don’t sparkle, shine and dazzle audiences tonight and Friday in their annual spring concert at Memorial Auditorium, it’s not due to a lack of effort on the part of the veteran music teacher.

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“You sound like a million bucks — now smile,” she coaxed her youthful charges at a rehearsal earlier this week.

“I want voices singing, I want faces smiling — I want the whole enchilada.”

Anderson’s spirited coaching is contagious, and if rehearsal performances are any indication, her Worthington Middle School (WMS) students will indeed serve up satisfying musical fare sure to please everyone’s taste.

“You’re my baby, you’re my pet, I fell in love on the night we met,” croon the seventh-grade boys in their ensemble number, “You’re 16,” before launching into a kazoo chorus.

Not to be outdone, the sixth-grade boys’ ensemble delivers an enthusiastic, hearty-voiced rendition of “Sweet Caroline,” while their female counterparts share a well-rehearsed “Leader of the Pack” complete with a sprinkling of poodle skirts and letter jackets.

“These kids have been very fun to work with,” assured Anderson, now in her 27th year of music education, 26 of which have been spent in Worthington.

“Every year, dealing with changing voices is difficult, but it happens every year, so it’s not a big surprise — we just work through it.”

Rounding out the concert program’s ensemble selections are the seventh-grade girls, blending well on a ’60s medley, plus the eighth-grade girls (“Party in the USA”) and the eighth-grade boys (“Man of Constant Sorrows”).

“The kids are all so involved, but we manage to fit in a few extra rehearsals at the auditorium so they can get used to the space and the feel of the stage,” said Anderson.

Anderson’s eighth-graders will cap their spring choir concert career with a Swahili folk tune, “Bonse Aba,” as well as “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” “Wake Me Up” and “You’ll Be in My Heart,” the latter few numbers sung along to Anderson’s traditional concert-closing slideshow.

“I finished it (the slideshow, comprised of photos of the eighth grade singers from birth to present) over Easter break, which is about a week earlier than usual,” commented Anderson. “It was much less stressful this year, for some reason.”

The full seventh-grade choir, nearly 100 strong, will sing “Lean on Me,” “Dance, Dance, Dance,” “Wagon Wheel” and the rollicking “Ragtime Town.”

And although it’s their first year in the big show, the sixth-grade choir is ready to roll with “The Journey” (a poignant blending of Antonin Dvorak’s “Going Home” and “Simple Gifts”), “Gotta Keep Moving,” Katy Perry’s “Roar” and the Mr. Rogers’ tribute “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

“They came ready to play,” said Anderson of her sixth grade vocalists. “They do so well with three-part harmony — I mean, the older students do, too, but to be solid on it at that level is really nice and makes me very happy.”

Eleven select eighth-graders, who auditioned early in the year for the privilege, will appear as the Festival Singers to perform “Poor Wayfaring Stranger.”

Featured in that group are Natalie Demuth, Jessica Darling, Jamie Newman, Stephanie Lowry-Ortega, Catalina Nguyen, Fairy Blu, Drew Olsen, Jacob Prunty, Nathan Schuck, Stewart Merrigan and Max Langerud.

“I’d like to thank my family and Chris Kielblock for their help in putting on these concerts, and I also want to acknowledge Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh for her care and support over all the years she was at Memorial Auditorium,” attributed Anderson.

“The WMS music faculty is also so supportive of the choirs.”

Tonight and tomorrow evening, Anderson—who keeps her fingers busy at the keyboard accompanying each of the choirs—will only have eyes for her student singers.

“Give me more face, more sound,” she urged them. “I love you, but make me love you more.”

And if Anderson’s students succeed, chances are good the audience will love them, too.

The Worthington Middle School choirs are in concert tonight and Friday at 7 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. There is an admission fee, and District 518 activity passes will be accepted.