Sunday, August 18, 2019

Well, it was a Valliant effort (and then some)

Last year, when Rob Richards teamed up with the Fremont, NE barbershop chorus known as the Pathfinders to deliver the Rose Theater's annual River City Theatre Organ Society concert, I didn't get to blog about it.

Had to rush right off and go to a church function afterwards.

No such circumstances this time around; I just got back this afternoon from the 2019 RCTOS extravaganza at the Rose.

I enjoyed it...just as I enjoyed the 2018 offering (despite it running overtime and me having to worry about lateness to that church function I committed to).

Still...when this year's bill was announced, I had mixed feelings. (That's my tough luck.)

I was excited to find out Brett Valliant was going to play the Rose's three-manual, 21-rank 1927 Wurlitzer pipe organ. (Saw one of his YouTube videos- the one where he played "Build Me Up, Buttercup-" and got excited.)

And, in 2005, I saw pianist Robert Glaser perform his brand of jazz at Omaha's since-closed Grande Olde Players Theater, which, at the time, put on a monthly jam session for local jazz performers.

Since then, I've loved Robert's way with a tune...his flair for turning a familiar song on its ear (such as "Ticket to Ride").

Today, Robert brought his Sing Sing Swing Orchestra to the venue at 20th and Farnam. Like Brett, Robert and his seven fellow instrumentalists in Sing Sing Swing play up a storm. And the band's featured vocalist, Julie Baker, sings up a storm. 

Julie was the first female performer to be part of a Concert at the Rose since...2011, when another Nebraska big band, the sixteen-member Swingtones, shared the bill with Ballet Nebraska and organ great Dave Wickerham. (At that time, pianist Jennifer Novak-Haar and saxophonists Deb Lund and Sarah Stratton were in the Swingtones.)

Well, if you dig into "Boston's Blog's" archives, you'll find a post built around Lady Gaga's 2016 observation that the music business is a...well, you know, a boys' club. Not just in rock, R&B, pop, and country, either.

And that's why I had mixed feelings (flinch).

So...I bit my tongue this afternoon.

And opened up my ears.

And heard Brett wow the audience with tunes like "Vanessa," "Tango Tedesco," the "South Pacific" gem "Bali Hai," "Atlanta, GA," Pietro Deiro's "Pietro's Return," Disney mainstay "Go the Distance," "Maple Leaf Rag," "Over the Rainbow," "Little White Lies," and "You Raise Me Up..." to say nothing of a medley of selections from a Gioachino Rossini opera, 1817's "La Gazza Ladra," or "The Thieving Magpie."

Almost a century after "La Gazza Ladra" debuted, theater organs started popping up, and the first people to play them in public often took operas and other classical works and adapted them for those Mighty Wurlitzers and competing brands. (They weren't initially called "unit orchestras" for nothing...and Brett showed that today.)

After a fifteen-minute intermission, the man from Wichita, KS came back to fire up "Wake Up and Live." 

He then turned the show over to Robert and Co.

Sing Sing Swing jumped out of the gate with "In the Mood" before Julie jumped up to sing 1964's "L-O-V-E," Nat King Cole's next-to-last chart single during his lifetime.

"One O'Clock Jump" followed before Julie grabbed the mike back from Robert to sing "That Old Black Magic." The two of 'em teamed up to sing "Chattanooga Choo Choo," and then it was all instrumental after that, with the orchestra teaming up with Brett to do "Sing, Sing, Sing" and an encore of "In the Mood."

Well...what can I say, after they had me moving in my seat to the music?

How about...encore?