Sing-off! Locals win karaoke regional contest
At the end of the night Aug. 30, the judges for the Lehigh Valley Best of the Best karaoke contest had a winner.
Determining second place was not so simple.
Without telling the audience who the winner was, the judges announced Brandon Schlichting of Northampton and Whitehall native Kimberly Kiena had tied for second place. A sing-off would determine who took home the $500 second prize.
The 10-week contest kicked off June 28 with the first of eight weekly preliminary rounds at the Gin Mill & Grille in Northampton. The winners each week through Aug. 16 advanced to the semifinals, held Aug. 25 under the pavilion during Coplay Community Days. That afternoon the judges narrowed a field of 19 down to 12. A total of 24 had been named semifinalists but five didn't show.
The contestants returned to the Gin Mill the following week for the finals and the awarding of the prizes. Performances began at 10 p.m. and lasted until shortly after midnight.
Kiena, who had been the second of 12 performers that night, took the stage first during the sing-off. Dressed in a black top, denim shorts and black heels, she sang "I Keep Fallin'" by Alicia Keys. When she stepped off the stage, she and Schlicting hugged.
Schlichting, who wore jeans and a green plaid button-down shirt, sang "Somebody to Love" by Queen.
When they left the stage the pair hugged again. They had met just a few weeks earlier, during the Aug. 9 qualifying round when they both sang the same songs as during the sing-off. Kiena had placed first and Schlicting second.
This time, however, the results were reversed. Schlichting had won the sing-off and the $500 prize.
Kiena, who had won first place at the semifinals, was in tears.
Schlichting's hands were still shaking 15 minutes after the winners were announced.
"I wanted her to win," he said. "But I also wanted to win, so bad."
After the results of the sing-off, the judges announced East Allen Township resident Tim Marchetto would take home the $1,000 first prize. Wearing a white suit and tie with white shoes, he had sung "Sherry" by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
"Thursday night was incredibly special, since my mother was there to share the moment with me," said Marchetto.
His mother, Chris Marchetto, also of East Allen, had come up to the stage with him to accept the prize.
Marchetto has traveled alone to enter karaoke contests as far away as Los Angeles, Calif., and Winterhaven, Fla.
"Winning in front of my family Thursday night and in my own backyard was an emotionally rewarding endeavor," he said.
Schlichting said he had entered one karaoke contest before but didn't even place. That loss motivated him to enter this one.
He's been interested in music for most of his life.
"I've been drumming since I was 3," he said. At age 16, he joined the band Skys of Black because they needed a singer.
His parents suggested he enter the contest, he said.
"It felt great," he said of winning second prize. "The only part that killed my buzz was having to battle Kim because I really liked her."
Marchetto began singing with an a cappella group at age 19. He began singing karaoke once he turned 21, he said.
"I decided to enter this contest because the level of competition was incredible, and stood to be one of the greatest challenges I've faced in this area," said Marchetto. "I have much respect for many of the others that competed, some of which I've known and become close friends with over the years."
The camaraderie among the contestants was evident. During both the semifinals and the finals, they cheered for each other and hugged each other after performances.
More than 180 people entered the contest during the eight qualifying rounds.
The winner was chosen by a panel of eight judges which included Coplay Mayor Joe Bundra. Northampton Mayor Thomas Reenock had been among the judges for the semifinals.