Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Seattle Men’s Chorus at the Symphony

A rehearsal photo from Broadway Rocks (courtesy Seattle Symphony Orchestra)
Broadway Rocks
With the Seattle Men’s Chorus
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Benaroya Hall
May 19-21, 2017

Seattle Men’s Chorus had a wonderful opportunity this last week to join the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in concert. About fifty of the members augmented three absolutely top-notch Broadway talents in a “Broadway Rocks” concert. This is part of the Symphony’s “Seattle Pops” concert series.

I have to admit that I thought it might mean that SMC would be featured “as” singers in their own right for this, and so was a tad sad that they didn’t get to specifically sing a choral piece, alone. But they added beautiful augmentation behind the featured Broadway talent. The pieces they participated in were richer and fuller because they were there!

Charlie Wade, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Operations at the SSO, said, “When the opportunity arose to partner with the Seattle Men’s Chorus, we were thrilled to share the stage with them for the first time! The Seattle Symphony Pops series features popular music set to the big sound of an orchestra, where fans of all ages can experience a high quality performance and a fun night out.”

The idea of a Pops series, which is not unique to Seattle (Boston Pops does it all the time), is a smart idea to introduce symphony orchestra to new, and often, younger listeners. Popular musical forms that people think of as rock and roll or jazz or – in other words – not  “stuffy orchestra” type music is given orchestral arrangements that help connect folks who are used to popular culture music an appreciation for what lots of other types of instruments can add.

The Pops series concerts are a great introduction for people to experience the orchestra, and to hear some of their favorite popular music in a different setting and to gain an enhanced experience with the power of a live orchestra.

In this concert, Ron Evan, a Broadway talent who clearly also knows his way around a concert, introduced and sometimes almost eclipsed his two female co-stars: Capathia Jenkins and Christiane Noll. His voice is so big that unless he was very careful, he could simply blast right over other vocals and even the orchestra! (There was an unfortunate aspect, sound-wise, to this concert. It was sometimes too loud to hear the singers, including the SMC… We hope they can get the balance better for future concerts.)

The song choices were very well done. Conductor Steven Reineke led the enthusiastic musicians and assembled players through selections from shows like The Wiz, Hairspray, Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Wicked, and of course, a bunch of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. Each of the Broadway stars got his or her own chance to shine and it was no surprise to see the audience stand and applause Ms. Jenkins when she belted out And I Am Tellin’ You from Dreamgirls, after a great effort at being Tina Turner for Proud Mary

Ms. Noll, who announced from the stage that she may well be going back to star on Broadway in a reprise of Next to Normal, was the most silly and energetic in her delivery. She was clearly having a wonderful time and wanted the audience to join her in it! She not only delivered the singing goods in Defying Gravity, but showed off her amazing soprano for the Phantom songs.

Mr. Evan, who announced that his show, Rocktopia, that he developed, is going to open on Broadway in 2018, also excelled in the big Phantom numbers. The description of what Rocktopia is on their web site is, “a revolutionary performance celebrating the fusion of classical music with classic rock.” 

The SMC disappeared for almost the entire second act, reappearing right at the end for the encore of Let the Sunshine In from Hair. Everyone, stars and SMC members, were dressed in tie-dye and ‘60’s paraphernalia, as SMC ran down the main floor aisles to get the audience up and clapping.

If you like the idea of introducing your young folk, or people who say they don’t like “classical music” to the Orchestra this way, here are a few more upcoming dates for the Seattle Pops Series:

Chris Botti: Grammy Award winner and pop-jazz powerhouse Chris Botti brings his trumpet and his acclaimed band to Benaroya Hall. After early stints with Sting and Paul Simon, Botti has carved out an envious career of his own performing a mixture of familiar ballads, jazz and American songbook standards. 9/29/17-10/1/17

Holiday Pops: Conductor Stuart Chafetz and the University of Washington Chorale return for another fun-filled Holiday Pops program. 12/8-19/17

Broadway Today: Steven Reineke leads the Seattle Symphony and Broadway stars Betsy Wolfe and Jeremy Jordan in today’s greatest Broadway hits, from The Book of Mormon to Honeymoon in Vegas, along with songs from such modern classics as Cabaret, Company, Little Shop of Horrors, Nine and much more. 1/12-14/18

Just a Kiss Away: The unforgettable Lisa Fischer spent decades singing her heart out with The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Luther Vandross and Chris Botti. Twenty Feet from Stardom, the Oscar-winning documentary, brought Lisa center stage. Now, the two-time Grammy winner is touring the world, recording with Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang and thrilling critics and fans. In this new program, Lisa recreates rock anthems like "Gimme Shelter" and "Rock and Roll" using the rich colors and textures of the orchestra. 2/16-18/18

For more information, go to or call 206-215-4747.

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