The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Lincoln Theatre Company Choristers
Lincoln Sings Broadway - February 26, 2016
by Dick Frantzreb
There was a buzz of excitement on this Friday evening because this was the inaugural concert series for a new chorus, and in this first of three concerts this weekend, they performed for a very appreciative audience. There are 31 members in this mixed chorus, which only began rehearsing this past October. Choristers is an offshoot of the Lincoln Theatre Company, which has staged both youth and adult theatrical events over the past year.
The venue for tonight's concert was the Lincoln Civic Auditorium at 511 Fifth St. in Lincoln. It is a cozy spot, currently accommodating an audience of about 150 with a raised stage and theatrical lighting. The Lincoln Theatre Company has big plans for this space, though, and in 2014, they partnered with the City of Lincoln in a million-dollar plan to remodel and expand the facility, and fundraising is going strong. (One evidence of the partnership is that a scene from the Lincoln Theatre Company's production of Annie Jr. last November is one of the 9 rotating images on the home page of the City of Lincoln's website.)
On this evening, choral risers were set up in front of an elegantly simple stage backdrop. The singers entered without fanfare — men dressed in black pants and black long-sleeved shirts with silver bowties; women in black slacks and tops with white scarves. The audience was greeted by Paul Schechter, president of the Lincoln Theatre Company (and a member of the chorus). Part of Schechter's preliminaries were recognition of 2 Lincoln City Council members and the City Manager, all of whom were in the audience. Next was the introduction of Director Eric Rainwater, who had been waiting offstage.
The chorus began singing "There's No Business Like Show Business" as Rainwater came to the microphone for his own brief but enthusiastic welcome to the audience. He then turned to direct the chorus, and I was immediately struck with the high energy of both director and chorus. The energy of the audience was high, too, and I could hear people near me humming or even singing softly along to the familiar music.
Throughout the concert, Rainwater was a dynamic host, giving background and often humorous commentary for each song. Accompaniment was provided on a synthesizer by his wife, Candy Rainwater. To my mind, she did yeoman work at that keyboard, and didn't get nearly enough credit.
Small though the performance space was, sound was handled professionally. It seemed that there was a direct connection from the synthesizer to the sound board at the back of the room, and there were several choral mics. There were large speakers on each side of the audience, through which I heard the accompaniment, but the amplification of the choral sound was subtle, and I felt that I was hearing them directly from their positions on the risers.
(Click here to open the concert program in a new window.)
Take a look at the program, and you can see that this was an all-Broadway show (with one nod to Hollywood). Maybe it was the familiarity of the lyrics or the quality of the miking — but more likely it was training by the director and the discipline of the singers — in any case I felt that the words of the songs came through especially clearly.
The choral sound was solid throughout, especially in unison and 2-part sections, though I didn't hear as much 4-part harmony as I would have expected from a mixed chorus — at least in the early part of the concert. I heard some good solo numbers, sometimes enhanced by expressive, even dramatic touches. The same was true of some of the small group numbers, which might include an appropriate hat or other costume element to set the scene. Of these, I was particularly impressed with the good handling of the "Fugue for Tinhorns" from Guys and Dolls as sung by John Griffin, Ron Hanson and Don Moran. "Adelaide's Lament" from that same medley was sung by Mary Jo Garrison with spirit and humor and was an audience favorite. John Griffin's performance of "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific also bespoke an experienced, confident singer.
There was a lot of variety in the presentation of the music: one example was men's and women's quartets going back and forth between two more South Pacific tunes: "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" and "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair."
The first song after intermission was "Singin' in the Rain." It was an especially cute arrangement by Mark Hayes, and the chorus really had fun with it. I think it was about this point in the concert that I thought: "This is a chorus to join for the pure fun of singing."
The exuberant spirit of the first half of the concert didn't wane after the intermission, but I thought the choral singing improved, and I was more aware of multi-part harmony. I felt that especially in "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz and "The Trolley Song" from Meet Me in St. Louis.
The climax of the concert was a medley of music from Les Misérables. This was interesting because the medley was based on the movie version, which included a song, "Suddenly," that was not in the musical theater version of the show. Only having seen the movie once, I was glad to hear this very nice song — nicely presented.
I felt that all the sections of the Les Mis medley captured the passion and heart of that magnificent score, especially in "I Dreamed a Dream" and "On My Own." "Master of the House" was something else. Paul and Peggy Schechter really delivered this song in its original spirit — with accents, acting, costumes, and a bit of terpsichore that gave it authenticity. They bowdlerized the lyrics — no surprise, considering that Eric Rainwater is also the music minister and Lincoln Hills Community Church and runs a studio of Christian music education for children.
Rainwater's last words to the audience were "We hope we've touched your hearts tonight." It was a good bet that he and his chorus had done so because the audience had no hesitation in rising to their feet in applause and cheers as the concert concluded. Clearly this was a successful debut for this chorus, and one can look for even more entertaining concerts from them in the future.