Movie Night - May 1, 2014
by Dick Frantzreb
I felt for the frustration of the Amador Choraliers. The rehearsal in Ione’s Cornerstone Church had gone well just hours before, but it got to be showtime, and the sound system wasn’t working properly. It was important because many of the songs were sung to recorded tracks, and quite a few others needed the output of the electronic keyboard, not to mention the MC’s microphone, to be amplified. The concert started only about 20 minutes late, and the technical problems were completely forgotten in the fun and joy that unfolded as the concert got underway.
The church was small and undecorated. The singers performed on risers with instruments off at “stage right.” A nice touch for visual interest was the display of movie posters coordinated with each song on a screen behind the chorus. Singer husband David Payne acted as host and was a relaxed and genial one, giving interesting background for each song and maintaining a rapport with the audience.
(Click here to open the program in a new window.)
I’ve been to a lot of concerts where I’ve been introduced to interesting, beautiful, exciting music that I’d never heard before. So it was refreshing to attend a concert where nearly every song was familiar. But only part of the pleasure comes from the familiarity. First, there's the arrangement of that well-loved song, and there were a lot of fresh, fun and just enjoyable arrangements this evening. And some were quite complex and sophisticated. But what made it all even more special was the spirit with which the songs were performed. These Amador Choraliers all seem able to shed their inhibitions and have fun, and to me, that makes them good entertainers.
I won’t comment on everything that was sung because you can see from the program that there were 21 selections. Even though every one was a song from a movie (the Marx brothers’ “Room Service” through “Les Misérables”), there was a lot of variety in the program. First, there was variety in the ensemble format: full chorus, men only, women only, women’s quartet, and mixed quartet. There was variety in the accompaniment: live (keyboard and bass), recorded accompaniment track, and a cappella. Then, of course, the music reflected many subjects, moods, and styles. There was even variety in directors, with that task rotating among 4 members of the group, though Darlene Williams spent the most time in the director’s chair.
There were several points in my notes where I wrote: “Lovely arrangement sensitively and beautifully done.” At another point I wrote: “Intricate, moving arrangement, sung with heart.” Elsewhere, I found “The Shadow of Your Smile” to be “sweet and lulling.” And I was impressed to find that the whole program was performed from memory.
What I especially enjoy about this chorus, though, is the personality and vitality that they project. And you can see that most obviously in their sense of humor. They had a lot of cute accents to many songs: gestures, acting, thematic costume elements, a bit of choreography, and a lot of props. The fun was especially apparent in “It Had Better Be Tonight” and “Yellow Submarine,” which was performed with props and a cute, bouncy arrangement. Then they really loosened up with “Greased Lightning.” These people are definitely not shy when a song gives them room to express themselves. Then with all the fun and whimsy, I was taken aback with the next-to-last “I Knew I Loved You.” It was a surpassingly beautiful tune, sensitively sung.
I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane. That’s what it would be for anyone over 40 or 50. But it was more than a musical revue. This group that has been in existence for 51 years, with many long-term members, has a family spirit about it and a mission. It seems like their objective is to convey joy. They certainly succeeded in that with me.