Showing posts with label Choral Society of the Palm Beaches. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Choral Society of the Palm Beaches. Show all posts

Monday, February 24, 2020

A Musical Weekend

I’ve said it many times but it bears repeating that one of the very best reasons for living in SE Florida are the myriad cultural opportunities, especially being able to enjoy the music we love most, the Great American Songbook.  Luckily for us, in one weekend alone, we attended two concerts and a jazz jam.

Saturday night Linda Eder performed at the Eissey Campus Theatre.  We’ve heard her over the airways, but have never seen her in concert.  The place was packed, an unusually rainy night, but the concert started right on time.  Ms. Eder, a Minnesotan, is a statuesque, attractive performer, with a powerhouse voice and she’s as comfortable with standards as with Broadway hits.  I would imagine she could handle a Patsy Cline classic as well; she has tremendous range and sensibility.

Her rise to fame began in Frank Wildhorn’s musical Jekyll & Hyde in which she made her Broadway debut, originating the role of Lucy.  She and Wildhorn were married in 1998, and later divorced, but their son who is now 20 is a songwriter. Eder, who collaborated with him on the lyrics, sang one of his songs during the program.  She has recorded a record number of CDs, 18 so far.

Usually when a “diva” is giving a concert we get to know a little about her career, but what I related is about all she told.  Essentially, it was the music, more than a score of songs, too many to list here, but showing her solid versatility and wide range.  A good interview with Eder can be found at this link

Her “signature” songs were included, both with rousing standing ovations.  The man sitting next to us related that he’s been following her around the country since 1999, an ardent fan, well understood given her delivery of "Someone Like You" from Jekyll & Hyde, and "Man of La Mancha.”

We loved her rendition of “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard which we saw one New Year’s Eve on Broadway during its opening run.  Other fairly recent Broadway classics included “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables, and “What I Did for Love” from A Chorus Line.  One of my personal favorites, “Losing My Mind” by Stephen Sondheim was particularly appreciated by us.

Standards included hat tips indirectly to Sinatra, with “The Best is Yet to Come,” Just in Time.” and “They Can't Take That Away from Me,” as well as Barbra Streisand classics “Before the Parade Passes Me By” and "The Music That Makes Me Dance."  Those in particular demonstrated Eder’s clear phrasing, something that impressed me as those songs’ lyrics are as important as the music.

Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” was passionately sung, so fitting for this torch song.

Songs not normally heard at such concerts were Henry Mancini’s "Charade" and Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” the latter being sung with a flute accompanist.  Both songs so plaintive, but beautifully sung by Ms. Eder.

Her band was great, a sax, drums, the bass, and a very capable musical director, her pianist, Billy Jay Stein, who had the biggest grin on his face throughout the concert, a man who truly loves his “work.”  Perhaps it helped that his parents who live in Wellington, FL were in the audience and an appropriate acknowledgement was made during the concert.  Eder is a true Diva with a BIG voice.

This segues nicely to the next day, actually late afternoon to catch The Choral Society of the Palm Beaches concert which featured another Diva, the guest artist soprano, Lisa Vroman in a program titled Broadway’s Best; Soaring from Stage to Screen.  

Here she shared the stage with the Choral Society itself, in good form for a few solo numbers and to back up Ms. Vroman.  She also had a fabulous piano accompanist, the Cuban born classical pianist (and teacher) Dr. Erikson Rojas.  She sang a couple of duets with Mark Aliapoulios who is the Artistic Director of The Choral Society of The Palm Beaches.

Unlike Linda Eder, Lisa Vroman tells the audience a little more about her extensive musical history, sharing her Broadway roles and performances with orchestras around the world.  She is a soprano.  Her voice well suited for operatic as well as Broadway roles. One of the major highlights in a long career was playing Christine in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

This concert had all favorite Broadway numbers, starting with “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair sung by the Choral Society, and then Ms. Vroman making her stage entrance to sing more Rodgers and Hammerstein, the not often performed “I Have Confidence” and then the beloved “Do Re Mi” both from The Sound of Music.  The men in the chorus did a rousing and fun rendition of “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” from South Pacific.

Ms. Vroman sang a heartfelt rendition of "Till There Was You" by Meredith Willson from his musical play The Music Man.

Then she and the Choral Society presented a number of melodies from one of my favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, Carousel before the intermission.

Selections from Beauty and the Beast, Hello Dolly, and then songs from Oklahoma served as an inspiring concert conclusion, all songs we’ve heard over and over, and would like to hear over and over again. They are especially moving with a well rehearsed Chorus of voices. Lisa Vroman, and Linda Eder are each in a class of their own.

From the Choral Society, we went directly to the Jupiter Jazz Society Jam at Double Roads to see the guest artist, Jérôme Degey , an impassioned French guitarist who hums the complicated jazz licks as his fingers work the frets.  The audience really gets into the jams and in this case a young couple was dancing a version of the “west coast swing” which I tried to capture for Twitter here.  One can see Degey working in the background.

So, from the Great American Songbook, to Broadway to Jazz, it was a moving weekend, an excellent reset and reflect during this gathering election season storm.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Great American Songbook Inhabits the Palm Beaches

Some recent events bear witness to the title of this entry.  A focal point, though, is Palm Beach’s The Colony Hotel which has its very own version of Manhattan’s Cafe Carlyle, or any of the well known NYC cabarets, only more intimate.  The Colony’s Royal Room attracts some topnotch American Songbook talent. Also, the Colony’s Polo Lounge Sunday brunch this season featured one of the best jazz pianists, Bill Mays. Sometime ago we heard Mays accompany diva Ann Hampton Callaway (a composer and a great jazz-cabaret singer) at the Eissey Campus Theatre of Palm Beach State College and made it a point to seek him out at the Colony’s Polo Lounge a couple of weeks ago. 
I asked him to play Bill Evans’ Turn Out the Stars, not very frequently performed, a work of beautiful voicing and emotion.  After a break, Mays played it solo, without the bass, effortlessly as if he plays it daily.  To me, it was heartrending. Then we were treated to an impromptu performance by the then featured performer at the Royal Room -- Karen Oberlin.  Amazing how an unrehearsed number by three professionals can be so natural.  Bill Mays’ CD Front Row Seat is exactly as titled – it’s as if he is playing in your living room.

Last month at the Royal Room we also caught Jane Monheit who we saw years ago and who has matured into such a great stylist, with phenomenal range, her latest album, The Songbook Sessions, a tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald. She gladly posed with Ann for a photo. 

She performed pieces from her album and other numbers with her trio, husband Rick Montalbano on drums, Neal Miner on bass and Michael Kanin on piano, just the perfect combo for classic jazz.  Unfortunately her album (and this is very personal, not a professional observation) included a trumpet player, at times a distraction. I just wonder why the addition of a brass instrument was necessary. The bass, piano, and percussion combo is (to me) ideal for intimate, classic jazz.

Nonetheless, just to tie this together is a YouTube performance by Jane Monheit of Bill Evans’ Turn out the Stars, which was recorded at the Rainbow Room some six years ago.  What a sultry performer, one of our leading jazz first ladies, along with Stacey Kent, two completely different styles but both at the top of their games.

Last Saturday our close friend and neighbor, Nina (the artist who painted “Jessica” which hangs over my piano), who is also a cellist and a singer (do her talents have no bounds?), performed in the Choral Society of the Palm Beaches (S. Mark Aliapoulios, Artistic Director) – at Jupiter’s Florida Atlantic University auditorium. 

This was one of the most diverse programs we’ve seen in a long time, culminating in a partially acted out version of Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella, a Broadway show which was recently performed at the New York City Opera.

The program’s featured performers made it especially enjoyable, vocalists Lisa Vroman, a soprano with extensive Broadway experience (who played Rosabella in that New York City Opera presentation) and Mark Sanders, a baritone who frequently performs with the Gulf Coast Symphony.  They had the perfect chemistry for performing one of the most beautiful Broadway duets ever written, Loesser’s "My Heart Is So Full of You."

But for me the highlight was the appearance and performance of Paul Posnak, who arranged Four Songs By George Gershwin for two pianos, which he played with the Choral Society’s pianist Dr. Anita Castiglione.  The songs reminded me so much of Earl Wild’s arrangement, Fantasy on Porgy and Bess and after the concert I told him so. He was delighted by the comparison, and it was apt.

Not enough praise can be directed to Dr. Catiglione for her nearly non-stop performance during the 2-1/2 hour program, easily transitioning to soloing, to accompanying, from Gershwin, to Irving Berlin, to Rogers and Hammerstein, to then to Frank Loesser and finally to classical, accompanying songs beautifully sung by the 2016 Young Artist Vocal Competition Winners, Mr. Julian Frias and Ms. Celene Perez, both high school seniors with great artistic careers ahead of them.  Our friend, Nina, was instrumental in organizing this competition.

Judging by these events, the American Songbook thrives and its future seems assured in the Palm Beaches!