With the release of “My Beautiful Town,” a small group of Newtown youth singers and musicians has added its voice to the sound of healing and hope as Newtown continues to find its way forward following the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 12/14.
Students of local music teachers Jim Allyn and Francine Wheeler created the recording in late January at Starr Ridge Studios in Brewster, N.Y. Sales of the song will benefit Sandy Hook Promise, a local nonprofit working to help the community, including those most affected, to heal and to give it a voice in reducing gun violence nationally.
“Jim wrote the song in late December and a small group of his students released a very moving version as a video on YouTube just before Christmas,” said Rob Cox, a co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise. “Some of Jim’s students then combined with those of Francine, and created this new recording with the support of Newtown residents Robert LaPorta and Phyllis Cortese,” said Mr Cox.
Ben Wheeler, son of Francine and Dave Wheeler, was among those killed on 12/14.
ABC News special correspondent and talk show hostess Katie Couric will debut “My Beautiful Town” at the conclusion of her 3 pm, March 4 program, on ABC. The show, Voices of Newtown, was produced and filmed in Newtown on Monday, February 25, as a town hall format with members of the community, faith leaders, parents and spouses of the victims, and survivor families on stage and in the audience.
The song will be released as a digital download on iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, and all other music download sites. The CD release of “My Beautiful Town (Hometown Mix),” to be sold by local retailers, features a cover by renowned local artist David Merrill: an iconic painting of a winter evening scene of Newtown’s Main Street and flagpole.
“It is a timeless, and extraordinarily beautiful image of Newtown,” said co-producer Robert LaPorta, who selected and coordinated the artwork and design of the CD. Mr LaPorta’s record label, MSR Classics, enabled the project to come to fruition as a physical CD, securing donated services from the label’s graphics designer and manufacturer. Mr LaPorta’s musical talents also informed the project as he, Ms Cortese, Mr Allyn and David Powers, owner of Starr Ridge Studios, collaborated in the studio to finalize vocal parts, working with the many young singers and mixing the audio.
“Francine and [husband] Dave Wheeler, and their son Nate also came to the studio one day and we were able to bring Francine’s voice into this recording, which means so much to us and her students and the entire project,” said Mr Allyn.
As executive producer, Ms Cortese knew when she first heard the song that it would resonate far and wide. She secured the donated recording studio with Starr Ridge through her associates as executive director of Ives Concert Park in Danbury.
“Music industry colleagues in Los Angeles and Nashville have committed their support to ‘My Beautiful Town’ and we’re so thankful to receive these offers which will support Sandy Hook Promise’s efforts in helping our community to heal,” she said.
With the input of the young singers themselves, the name Newtown Youth Voices was adopted by the ensemble, which numbers approximately 25 children. The group also includes many fine instrumentalists, including Sofia Chiarandini on violin.