Monday, February 13, 2012

Hits of the 60s!

"Happy New Year and Welcome to the 60's!"  With these words my first concert experience of 2012 began.  Ok, not exactly, they followed the opening "Baby Boomer Prelude" performed by the Naples Philharmonic lead by conductor Jack Everly back in January.  The "Prelude" as well as 3 other pieces on The Beat Goes On: Music of the Baby Boomers program were his arrangements, and as usual were highlights of the evening.

"Medleys" was the decisive word of the evening comprising all but 2 pieces on the program.  There was a nice split between orchestral only (the aforementioned "Prelude", an entr'acte titled "Symphonic Sounds of the Sixties", a grouping of TV theme songs in "The Wonderful World of Television", the "Theme from Love Story", and "Lara's Theme from Dr. Zhivago") and vocalist involvement.

Farah Alvin
Guest artists for the series of concerts were Farah Alvin, Kristine Reese, N'Kenge, Joe Cassidy, Heath Calvert, and Roy Chicas.  Heath was also in last season's Broadway's Leading Men, where I had ranked him at the bottom of the male talent list compared to the other gentlemen.  In this show however, I would rank him at the top.  Whether it was another year of experience, more fun music, or just differences style from the others voices, I'm not sure.  But I thoroughly enjoyed his interaction with the ladies in "What's New Pussycat" from "Back to Bacharach" (obviously a medley of songs from Burt Bacharach), the blend with Farah in "If I Fell" from the Beatles medley, and his rendition of "Sounds of Silence".

But I'll go back a bit.  After being welcomed to the 60's, a quick summary of non musical accomplishments (I quote "...put man on the moon a great achievement by NASA, blah, blah, blah") we were reminded that Elvis was still gyrating, Chubby Checker introduced The Twist, the 50's was more the era of the guys group, but the 60's belong to the ladies, which led into "Stop! In the Name of Music". This medley by the ladies included "My Guy", "Baby Love", "Leader of the Pack", and a new favourite of mine "You Don't Own Me" featuring Farah.
Kristine Reese

As an intro to "The Wonderful World of Television" Jack recalled when colour TV's were first coming out and there was the one house on the street that had one, so everyone flocked there.  Initially, there weren't a lot of colour programs and it was one show that saved ABC and ushered in a change to producing more colour shows.  That show started off the medley and was Walt Disney's "Wonderful World of Colour", the precursor to the "Wonderful World of Disney" I grew up with.  It generated the money Walt needed to go ahead with his plans for Disneyland.  (As an aside I recently finished the book "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination" which goes into a lot of detail about the colour TV/Disneyland construction time period).  Also included were themes from "I Dream of Jeannie", "The Andy Griffith Show" which had the orchestra whistling and snapping, "Bewitched", "Star Trek: The Original Series", "The Dick Van Dyke Show", and even "The Flintstones", I had no idea it was out in the 60's!

I've known the "Theme from Love Story" for years, although probably it became ingrained in my mind when the Canadian pairs figure skating team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier used the music to win the 2002 Olympic gold medal.  I've never heard it in concert though and it came with the exceptional bonus of having Jack at the piano!  I knew that was his instrument, but hadn't seen him perform in that capacity before.  After starting off the orchestra from the podium, he moved to the piano and conducted as necessary from there.  It was beautiful.

Roy, Heath, and Joe in
Frankie Valli Medley
The first half concluded with a tribute to Frankie Valli.  It appears The Beat Goes On first debuted in the Indianapolis Symphony 2005/2006 season while the Jersey Boys musical debuted on Broadway in Nov. 2005.  Depending how far in advance each of these were conceived I have no idea which would have come first.  Not that it really matters, both point to the original group, but having been introduced to Valli and the Four Seasons music through Jersey Boys not too long ago, it seems a bit less fresh than if that hadn't been my exposure.  On the flip side, I recognized the carefully synchronized choreography of Joe, Heath, and Roy (who did a pretty great Frankie falsetto) as being part of how things were done in those days.  Since Valli started out with The Four Seasons, and there were only 3 guys they got Jack in on the action, "teaching" him the steps and getting him to join in from the podium during "Let's Hang On".  It adds to the fun element of the evening that he seems pretty much game for anything, including sporting a tie dye cummerbund.

Matthew Sonneborn
The second half opened with "Symphonic Sounds of the Sixties" a medley of instrumental hits and the section I did the worst at trying to name the components.  "Goldfinger" was easy and I recognized Mancini's "Baby Elephant Walk" having played it, but that was pretty much it.  I was able to remember one tune which with google and youtube's help turned out to be "Tijuana Taxi".  Matthew Sonneborn, principal trumpet, stood up for his solo part and had a tassel of some sort tied to the end of his trumpet which he was able to swing around.  The skills of orchestra musicians never cease to amaze :)

For that matter, neither did the talents of Joe Cassidy.  With all the vocalists reunited for "Hits of the Tie-Dyed Decade" he played the piano during "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" and later an acoustic guitar for a solo in the Beatles Medley of "Yesterday".  Other "Hit's" segments showcased N'Kenge in "Think", Roy in "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", Farah in "Both Sides Now", the orchestra in "More" and everyone in "Downtown" which is still stuck in my head!  Evidence of a great song I suppose.  "Downtown" was the audience participation part of the evening as the singers were silent at the first lyric of "downtown" except the whole house was too.  We catch on quickly though and next time filled in the blank.
Joe Cassidy

The evening concluded with a medley from the Fab Four.  Recently in looking for the pieces that comprised this concert I have listened to Beatles songs ranging from originals to lullaby versions to those that follow baroque performance practice!  Talk about an invasion into all areas.  As Jack mentioned at the top of the program, who would have thought the lyrics "she loves you, ya, ya, ya" would have the impact they did.

The Beach Boys music made an appearance in the encore of "Fun, Fun, Fun", "Surfin' USA" and "California Girls" was quoted in the opening "Prelude".  In a show with so many long medleys, there were times when it would have been nice to hear more of a song.  In fact I heard a comment from one audience member that they wished there were fewer medleys.  Typically I don't get the feeling of being short changed and this was probably the first concert where I've thought some excerpts could have been longer.  In true Symphonic Pops Consortium arranger fashion though quite often just when you're about to think "stop changing, I want more of that" they comply by showcasing a vocalist in a longer segment of the song.  The timing is always impeccable!

Kudos to the cast, orchestra, and creators on transporting the audience back in time.  Are we going to the 40's or 50's next season?

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