How the West Was Sung! - October 19, 2014
by Nancy Bramlett
What a wonderfully fun concert! Foot tapping, hand clapping, laughing out loud fun!
Director Sam Schieber and his compatriots must have had an incredible time finding the music. So many rib-tickling lyrics and lilting melodies, but I was more surprised by the acting. Some incredibly talented actors as well as singers in this group of cowboys and cowgirls. I'm not quite sure how I can keep this review in the allotted amount of words. You can find a copy of the program here.
The afternoon began with "How the West Was Won." The choir had a great blend, and incredibly full sound for the number of singers performing. Their enunciation was impeccable and so important with all those wonderful words!
The "Code of the West" was particularly funny. Then I got blindsided. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"? That doesn't sound western! Oh yes, read the program...from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I had totally forgotten that!
Then we were treated to a few solos: Christine Nicholson singing the "Wild, Wild, West"; Jill Wagoner with "Jill's Theme"; and "Theme from Django," (soloist not listed in the program). Christine was great and terrifically carried off all the comedy as well as the music. "Jill's Theme" was an unusual, beautiful vocalise (no words). The "Theme from Django" unexpectedly changed to a jazz scat part way through – more fun! Then Lisa Singh wowed the audience with "Way Out West," which contained a really tough melisma (lots of notes really, really fast).
Next were a series of Broadway cowboy songs, complete with the Broadway-caliber actors! In "Are You Ready, Gyp Watson?" Christine Nicholson played it perfectly, and John Reilly Saunders was HYSTERICAL! "Tough Guy Levi" was an audience favorite with Gary Levy singing about the Yiddish cowboy. And "Chief Rocky Boy" was also very well done.
Eddie Voyce was marvelous with a tongue twister of “The Best of What This Country's Got." "Buffalo Belle" was another unexpected piece in that it came from a Sherlock Holmes tale. Then I got back to what I anticipated – briefly, with a guys-only "There's a Coach a-Comin' In." "The Cross-Eyed Cowboy on the Cross-Eyed Horse" was incredibly silly with a fabulous presentation by Quinten Voyce. The "Hallelujah Trail" was a personal favorite of mine.
Then the audience got to sing! (Another favorite time of mine! Thanks, Sam!) One song rolled right into the next, and I was surprised to find how many of the lyrics I remembered. Good fun especially when all joined in on the clapping with "Deep in the Heart of Texas!"
Jon Shaffer led the second half narrating “I Wanna Be a Cowboy” with an unidentified tempestuous girl working hard to distract him and some really surprising “Yo! Yo!”s in between. Super! Then I thoroughly enjoyed the “Theme from Blazing Saddles” (something I knew!). Never one to let his audience get sleepy, Sam then gave us an early Christmas concert with a series of cowboy Christmas carols. All fun, all new, and all bringing lots of smiles.
Next, John Reilly Saunders did a magnificent job narrating “The Alamo” with the choir as the accompaniment. John is an awesome actor! Then Vanessa Archuleta and Madeleine Wielan really got into the hilarious spirit with “Any Gal from Texas” (originally played by Jane Russell and Mary McCarty). “The Green Leaves of Summer” was a beautiful nostalgic look at youth in the west, with gorgeous harmonies and superb blend.
The "Medley of Western Television Theme Songs" was great fun for all of us who grew up with Wagon Train, Maverick, Bonanza and the like. "The Lone Ranger," with voices as instruments, was a tremendous audience favorite.
"Lopin' Along (Without a Hoss)" was terrific fun with Ryan Ritter. "The Pony Express" was a little far off for my taste, but some really liked it. "The Magnificent Seven" was presented in two versions. The second was much better with another instance of voices as instruments.
"Happy Trails" was perfect! "Go West" was an imaginative and fresh mix of Horace Greeley and the Village People.
The encore, a voice-as-instruments rendition of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," was extremely well done and the audience showed its appreciation!
A very telling tale, is that because of this concert, I changed my behavior! I had so much fun, that I went on YouTube the next day searching for Western songs. To my surprise, there are TONS of them! I educated my fellow workers about fun Western songs and have added them to my list of go-to music when I am looking for some fun accompaniment to my day.Great job Samantics! I will make it a point to see you again soon!
Nancy Bramlett is a Dramatic Coloratura Soprano from Kansas City, MO. She graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL with a Bachelor’s of Music in Vocal Performance. She has most recently studied with Marla Volovna in San Francisco and Zoila Munoz in Davis. Nancy has had the honor of traveling all over the US and to Europe with the Bradley University Chorale. She has sung in several choirs since then, as well as performing in opera and musical theater productions and singing solos for local churches, as well as weddings and memorial services. Nancy has directed choirs; taught voice, piano and Kindermusik; and has been a music director for musical theater. She is currently busy with Classical Music for Christ and as a regular soloist for Cottage Way Christian Church in Sacramento and the Placer County Youth Orchestra. Nancy resides in Rocklin with her husband Scott and three sons: Patrick, Riley and John.