Reviews ...

Polymnia brings Broadway

... to Memorial Hall

by Jackie Wattenberg

It was Spring Pops again last weekend for our Polymnia Choral Society, and it was a night for a lot of good soloists--a jazzy headliner, a promising high school soprano, Blue of a Kind men's group, and a terrific five-piece orchestra. Just as impressive and essential was, as usual, Dorothy Travis who emphasizes each touch of rhythm and color with her piano virtuosity.

Conductor Murray Kidd filled us in with relevant info, and led all the Broadway hits with vitality, but did not share an available talent--his own renowned baritone voice--why not?

Memorial Hall is our biggest musical facility, fine for our Melrose Symphony Orchestra. But on Saturday evening when the chorus began to sing, the women's section, always strong and balanced, sounded light and youthful. Something about the acoustics, the full women's sound drifting gently up into the high ceiling way above the stage. The men's section came across well, even spirited and energetic, seated before the sopranos and altos. St. Mary's Church for the last recital had no such problem.

Still, Saturday night's performance stirred enthusiasm from the audience, most notably for guest singer-actress Leigh Barrett, who really knows how to put over a wild song! She has a voice she can make brassy pop-style, and then startle us with a terrific soprano high C! (Or maybe it was just B-flat!) She sang a colorful dramatic piece with humor and easy ad libs with her rapt audience, all unfailing nonsense. A guest star, she sang several songs persuasively, winning her audience each time.

At one point she also won over any performer who has ever forgotten a word or note in performance--she got lost in a song, and simply looked to Mr. Kidd to go back a step or two--done! A resident of Reading, she has performed in musical and humorous vehicles around the area, and was a joyful highlight of this pops concert.

Another star of the whole Broadway Hits performance was the young Melrose High School senior, Devin McCall, this year's winner of Polymnia's "Spotlight on High School Talent" contest. Her first appearance was with fine Polymnia tenor Steve Frances in a simply love song from "Rent." Later she showed her vocal and dramatic talent in putting over, bit by delicate bit, a charming little tale of winning "Taylor, the Latte Boy." Her voice seemed of medium range, perhaps a mezzo; smooth, lovely quality in its full range, with a promising warmth. And it's bound to increase its power with further study and singing.

The popular "Blue of a Kind," the group of a cappella men singers, offered a couple of standards in top-notch harmony arranged by their founder, Bob Eggers, who directs and arranges their numbers. Now grown to about 18 members, they project a soloist, here pleasing tenor Ed Fellenbaum, then add a background of wordless harmony on "oos," highlighting the soloist. A unique musical entity.

There were many good soloists throughout the evening. It was rewarding to hear music by a pair of early great Broadway leaders in the change from the old fashioned operettas --

Rodgers and Hammerstein, whose "Oklahoma!" was sung in a suitably impressive voice of great energy and dark quality, by Adam Krueckeberg. Another hit by those composers, "There's Nothing Like a Dame," from the great "South Pacific," was colorfully performed by lead Dan Franklin; Steve Francis, tenor; Bob Johnson, baritone, and bass Wayne Leslie. Then one more charmer by these composers, "It Might as Well Be Spring," delightfully done by Leigh Barrett.

The chorus rustled up their energy for "Forty Second Street," music by Harry Warren--the earliest musical touched on, premiered in the movies around the 1940's, and revived more recently. Richard Cook really put over "I'm Losing My Mind," by Sondhein, and Leigh Barrett did the same with Burt Bacharach's "A House is Not a Home."

Occasionally during the evening a singer was accompanied by a trail of tenor sax, very effective. Then in the latter portion of the program, the six-member band had their turn, and they really took over with smashing success--great sound ensemble, bright solos, livening up the choir and holding their own. Here they are: Greg Hopkins, trumpet; Demetriius Spaneas, tenor sax; Leslie Havens, bass trombone; Alyssa Daly, French horn; Charles Gabriel, bass; Pieter Struyk, drums. Excitement and added color!

The Polymnia Choral Society has been performing around here for almost 60 years. For their three annual performances, some directors have held two classical programs, one light or "pops concert."

Murray Kidd holds a mostly popular Christmas program, a few serious themes such as the "Hallelujah Chorus," but including "Jingle Bell Rock," etc. His success with serious works like the Faure' "Requiem" last spring encourage some music lovers to wish he would make the total two classical, one pops. So much great music to hear, so little chance to hear it in our neighborhood.

Reprinted, with permission from the Melrose Free Press, June 14, 2012

July 6, 2012

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