Heart and soul to spare

Kristin Shafel Omiccioli | KCMetropolis.org

Heart and SoulHeartland Men’s Chorus transported its full-house Folly audience back to the early days of doo-wop and rock n’ roll last weekend with its 27th season finale, “Heart and Soul: Music of the 1950s.”

Bespectacled in iconic black plastic Buddy Holly frames, the gentlemen of Heartland Men’s Chorus opened the concert with a medley of “Music, Music, Music” and the concert’s namesake, “Heart and Soul.” This medley perfectly set the tone for an evening of happy times via the infectious tunes of doo-wop and rock n’ roll’s early days.

Common for many HMC presentations, a dance troupe joined the singers for several selections on the program. Dressed in appropriately poofy 1950s poodle skirts, nerdy plaid button-downs, and pitch-perfect greaser garb, the ten dancers punctuated the songs with classic dance moves throughout, from Elvis Presley’s loose hips on “Jailhouse Rock” and “Blue Suede Shoes” to swing-influenced steps on “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay,” and, of course, the hand jive on “Willie and the Hand Jive.” The male dancers took on the breezy choreography on “Jamaica Farewell” and the ladies enjoyed a spotlight on “Mona Lisa,” humorously recreating the famous painting. Though not always perfectly coordinated, I think had the dancing been tightly together it would have been too rigid for the show’s light atmosphere.

HMC’s small ensemble the Heartaches (this time as a sextet) was featured prominently throughout the evening, and rightfully so. Their harmonic intonation and vocal blend was well suited to the doo-wop sound on “Standing on the Corner” and “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream).” Members of the Heartaches stood out as soloists on tunes with the full chorus as well, notably Jeff Williams’s ringing tenor and steady vibrato on the first half closer “Be My Love,” and a gloriously hammy and theatrical “I Went to Your Wedding” sung by John Edmonds. Another superb solo was Todd Kendall Gregory’s falsetto lead on “Why do Fools Fall in Love,” complete with stylistic melismata and embellishments.

Heart and SoulEach half of the concert included sets of medleys, starting with a boisterous audience sing-along in the first half in the tradition of 60s television host Mitch Miller on songs like “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and ‘Heart of My Heart.” Also on this medley, chorus member Josh Krueger gave a stellar solo on “Hot Diggity.” Guitarist Rick Bacus and drummer Ray DiMarchi stole the show with their rockin’ solos on the Elvis Presley medley in the second half, and “Love and Marriage” in the medley of wedding songs allowed for a lighthearted commentary on marriage equality today in the United States, arranging the tux- and gown-attired dancers in all combinations of bride-and-groom duos possible.

Artistic director and conductor Joseph Nadeau gave a historical note to introduce the concert’s token moment of gravitas, a tender rendition of the 1953 song “Secret Love” from the film Calamity Jane. The men sang the song’s heartfelt sentiment with sensitivity and emotion while Lamar Sims impressively handled the involved piano part. HMC had another powerful, emotional offering this evening with a rich, full sound on its encore, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel—a moving, heartrending conclusion to the chorus’s 27th season.

Thanks to excellent arrangements by David Maddux, the chorus shined as a whole on this concert more than any other HMC show I’ve attended. Despite a minute number of hesitant entrances and unclear tongue-twisty lyrics, the chorus overall had strong projection and intonation, moved together well through transitions and any section’s counterpoint, and kept the energy level up all night. As a community or amateur ensemble, HMC is a cut above with its attention to detail with props and costumes, and the singers’ utter commitment to and enthusiasm for making music together, apparent in their facial expressions and body language during every performance.

REVIEW:

Heartland Men’s Chorus
Heart and Soul
June 8–9 (Reviewed Saturday, June 8, 2013)
Folly Theater
300 W. 12th Street, Kansas City, MO
For more information, visit http://hmckc.org