NAUGATUCK — A Naugatuck man has been hitting all the right notes across the nation.
In August, Michael Doran, 33, performed with the New Haven-based 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra on the television show America’s Got Talent.
The road to America’s Got Talent for the 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra began late last summer.
Doran explained over Labor Day weekend in 2012 two Yale University students, Colin Britt and Arianne Abela, decided to get a group of music students together to perform an orchestral version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” to upload on YouTube.com.
“There’s nothing serious to be taken out of this at all. It was all meant, not as a goof, but just to put a new spin on it and have some fun while doing it,” Doran said.
Although the group at the time did not take it seriously people loved its performance. The video had over 2 million views in two weeks, Doran said.
In September 2012, after the video’s popularity soared, the Today Show invited the ensemble down to perform its rendition of “Call Me Maybe” during the show in Rockefeller Plaza.
“Afterwards everyone kind of thought that was it, the 15 minutes of fame is up,” Doran said.
Doran was not with the 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra for its performance on the Today Show. He joined the ensemble last December.
Doran, a professional singer, is in the choir at Christ Church in New Haven along with Abela, one of the directors of the 3 Penny Orchestra and Chorus. Abela asked Doran to join the 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra. He was already familiar with some of the members in the group, having performed with them as part of the Yale Recital Chorus, so he decided to sign on.
The group had assumed that its performance on the Today Show would be its last television performance. However, early in 2013 it received some surprising news.
“In February Simon Cowell’s production company called and wanted us to audition for America’s Got Talent,” Doran said.
At the time, Doran was unsure if he was going to be part of the audition, since the opportunity was being offered to the members who created the Youtube video and performed on the Today Show.
“It wasn’t until the weekend before our audition that I got called to participate in it,” Doran said.
This April, 55 members of the ensemble traveled to the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City and performed in the preliminary regional auditions for America’s Got Talent.
“It was absolutely surreal,” Doran said.
Coincidentally, the year before 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra’s audition Doran was in the Hammerstein Ballroom watching other acts perform in front of judges for the show.
“So, a year removed from being in the audience and here I am on stage performing. It was, to me, absolutely surreal,” Doran said.
The ensemble received a standing ovation after its audition from radio personality and judge Howard Stern, Doran recalled.
“That was amazing because, come to find out, when we watched it on TV he had said that he doesn’t particularly care for choral music,” Doran said. “So to get him to change his mind in 90 seconds was pretty neat.”
The group received a bye in the next round of the competition held in Las Vegas, Nev.
“I think it was kind of cost prohibitive to send 55 of us across the country,” Doran said.
The group next performed Aug. 13 at Radio City Music Hall in the quarterfinal round. For the quarterfinals, the ensemble performed a rendition of Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” This time the performance was broadcast live across the nation, but the 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra did not advance to the next round.
“Our shows aired but we unfortunately did not make it through. But we made it as far as the quarterfinals, which is pretty cool,” Doran said.
Although the group didn’t win, Doran said just being on the show helped gain them notoriety.
“There will be opportunities that present themselves through this,” Doran said.
Performing on national television was a huge step for Doran, who became interested in choral music after being forced to sing in church as a child. Doran said when he was young he was not a fan of performing with a choir.
“I hated it and thought it was corny and not cool. Like the wrap that it gets generally anyway,” Doran said.
However, when he got to Naugatuck High School, Doran found that many of the football players were also part of the choir.
“Going to Naugatuck High School it was a rare opportunity to see that sports and music can intertwine,” Doran said.
Doran said the experience he had as a member of the Naugatuck High School Chamber Singers, as well as learning music from former Naugatuck High School band director Scott Friend and former Naugatuck High School choral director Bill Davis, made him want to continue singing.
After graduating high school in 1997, Doran studied music history at Central Connecticut State University.
As long as he is available, Doran said, he would like to continue to be part of the 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra. However, getting the group together has become more difficult.
Since the members were primarily Yale students, many have graduated and moved all over the country, Doran said.
“It’s never going to be the same group twice,” Doran said. “It’s going to be augmented each time we make an appearance.”
For Doran, having a rotating lineup is not necessarily a bad thing.
“It’s kind of like a baseball game. You’re always the New York Mets, but you’re not always the same group of guys,” Doran said.