The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Sacramento Women's CHorus
CHOCtoberfest - October 17, 2015
by Diane Boul
If you’re one of those people who think that choral concerts are serious and can’t be fun, you’ve never heard the Sacramento Women’ Chorus!! Held at The Center at Twenty-three Hundred in Sacramento, and billed as “CHOCtoberfest, a cabaret-style concert,” this fun night was more than just a concert. It was a gala event; a fund-raiser for the chorus’s anticipated 2016 trip to Denver for GALA, the Gay and Lesbian Association of choruses from around the world. “So much fun,” “Entertaining!” “Creative,” ”New,” “Engaging,” “Crazy,” “Funny,” and “Contagious” are some of the descriptive comments I heard last night while experiencing the SWC’s extraordinary event.
With so much going on and so much to listen to, there was never a dull moment, and you really needed to pay attention so as not to miss anything. Unfortunately, the sound system had bugs that hadn’t been worked out, and the venue was so cavernous that it made listening difficult at times.
(Click here to open the program in a new window.)
Choir members singing from the audience always seems to be a crowd pleaser, and pleased we were with the fitting opening number, “Celebration”; we knew we were in for a good time. Later the chorus scattered among us again, this time to perform “Cups” on our tabletops with dancing plastic cups, to a song originally written and recorded in 1931 by the Carter Family, as “When I’m Gone.” In 2009 Lulu and the Lampshades recorded and made a YouTube video of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” using the cups as percussion. In 2012 Anna Kendrick made “When I’m Gone” popular in the movie Pitch Perfect, using the choreographed cups. So now it’s called, familiarly, “The Cup Song” or simply “Cups.”
Early in the first half of the program, “The Magic Act” produced a darling puppy (courtesy of Adopt a Pet), and the chorus sang “Pure Imagination,” conducted by Artistic Director Robin Richie and Nick, the “magic” chocolate lab. This is just another example of the tremendous amount of energy and imagination that went into producing this extravaganza: the props, the choreography, the coordination of the MC’s commentary, not to mention the raffles, prizes, and presentations of these. Then there were the refreshments, including the candy centerpieces and the cake table. Kudos to the production crew!
I’ve never seen/heard such an enthusiastic, energetic chorus. There’s an obvious camaraderie in this group not often seen in choirs. I can think of a number of choirs that could take a lesson from SWC. Even though they obviously have fun with their music, it’s also obvious that they spend quite a bit of time on their avocation; all the music was memorized, and they really delivered the songs.
The chorus’s work is a direct reflection on the artistic director and the professionals that work with her. Educated and experienced, director Robin Richie has attracted a large group of capable singers (once only 28 members, they now number 78) and has done a great job of melding good choir technique and fun to produce an entertaining show. Artistic Director Richie acted not so much as a traditional director, but as a facilitator. I liked that. With a few exceptions, she was there to guide the chorus, but not distract the audience from the show. She did take “center stage” when she performed “The Magic Act” prior to “Pure Imagination” and later portrayed “The Candy Man” while the choir sang from the stage.
The choir’s very fine accompanist, Kamilyn Davis, moved flawlessly from tango to samba to whatever style was needed. Since there were quite a few soloists, this meant that she had to be there for them wherever they went. Only a really good accompanist can be so agile and flexible. She shared some nicely balanced accompaniments with instrumentalists, Casey Lipka and Tim Metz.
While all the soloists, more than are mentioned in the program, delivered pleasing and solid performances, I want to mention Amy Browne and Anna Murphy in particular. Amy not only had a pleasant voice, but she was able to maintain good singing vocal technique while still articulating the humor in the lyrics. Anna’s interpretation of “Taylor, The Latte Boy” was appropriately cute and simple-minded. Nice voice!
I don’t know who wrote the commentary, but it was clever and enticing and delivered flawlessly by an MC whose name I missed and whose name was missing from the program.
The show included a mix of traditional standards, newer musical numbers, and strictly whimsical songs, all united under the theme of chocolate. And, there was a lot of it—all over the tables. Yum!
The traditional numbers, “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” “The Nearness of You,” and “Dream” allowed the choir to show their more serious, polished side with good blend, nicely balanced harmony, and mostly warm sounds.
Musical numbers included songs from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: “Pure Imagination,” “The Candy Man,” and “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” as well as “Vanilla Ice Cream” from She Loves Me. Did I mention that the program theme was chocolate in all its forms and everything that might go nicely with chocolate? (The ”Golden Ticket” song had to do with the grand prize ($$$$) in the raffle, which was presented during the second half of the show.)
Some songs were strictly whimsical, funny, sometimes hilarious, and mostly chocolaty: “Hot Chocolate,” “Taylor, The Latte Boy,” “Bittersweet Tango,” and “My Simple Christmas Wish.” If we believe the lyrics, “Bittersweet Tango” would convince us that chocolate is the reason for living: “Give me chocolate or give me death.” And did I hear some witty substitute lyrics in “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian?
Sacramento Women’s Chorus has quite a following as evidenced by the huge audience (and the difficulty finding parking). How many choirs wish they had that problem? I know people who would attend more concerts if they expected to have fun; I can recommend SWC to fill this void. I’m sure the organization wouldn’t mind finding a venue with a larger parking lot to accommodate an even larger audience!