Steve Wilson | Examiner.com
Kansas City native and musical icon Marilyn Maye joined the Heartland Men’s Chorus at the Folly Theater for “Cool Yule, Big Jazz Band and Marilyn Maye!” on Friday night. Maye made a record 76 appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Her recording of “Too Late Now” was selected by the Arts Council of the Smithsonian Institution for its album of the 110 Best American Compositions of the Twentieth Century.
The beautiful voices of 150-plus singers combined marvelously with the Mid America Freedom Band as they opened the program with Irving Berlins “Happy Holidays” and “Holiday Inn”. The chorus performed three more songs before the Heartaches took to the stage and sung “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” as a tribute for their Ad Astra group. Ad Astra is Latin for “to the stars” and the group is filled with members of the chorus who have passed this year and previous years.
After the dedication to the Ad Astra group it was up to soloist John Edmonds, who also performed with the Heartaches, to bring holiday cheer back to the audience with his rendition of “Little Jack Frost Get Lost.” In many of the programs performed by the chorus the audience has been treated to solo performances by Edmonds.
Marilyn Maye took center stage and performed several selections with her personal musicians before intermission. It is fantastic to see Maye take to a Kansas City stage one more time to entertain the audience. Her voice is as strong as ever and her showmanship is second to none. She has gotten older and may occasionally forget a word or line or verse, but she makes light of it with humor. “Little naps are great” she said after asking her conductor to begin a song over.
After the intermission the chorus returned to the stage and performed “Cool Yule”, written by Steve Allen. The next few selections including “Boogie Woogie Santa Clause” and “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas” were lively, upbeat and brought holiday magic to the audience’s ears.
Soloist Steven Jeffrey Karlin sung “Hot Hannukah” before Marilyn Maye returned to the stage and performed several more selections, some of which included the Heartland Men’s Chorus.
In this era of war, hunger, poverty, discrimination and disease it would hard to imagine a holiday season without a visit to the Heartland Men’s Chorus. This is one of the few gifts that gets better every time it is unwrapped.