By Anthony Rodgers March 22, 2016
Heartland Men’s Chorus followed its own beat this weekend with “Perfect Pitch” featuring a cappella arrangements of popular tunes and concepts from the film “Pitch Perfect” that were a-ca-awesome.
A cappella music has a rich history that has re-entered the mainstream in recent years with the popularity of Straight No Chaser and the Pitch Perfect films. Heartland Men’s Chorus followed its own beat this weekend with “Perfect Pitch” featuring a cappella arrangements of popular tunes and concepts from the film Pitch Perfect that were a-ca-awesome.
“Take Me to Church” was an appropriate selection as one of the opening numbers for this show, hinting at the chapel origins of “a cappella,” and the fun arrangement set the bar high for the popular tunes of the night. The chorus strove to maintain a high level of energy needed when singing without instruments. Some rough starts were had, as pitch centers felt unclear, including “Pompeii” and “Some Nights,” but the eventual addition of piano and percussion to these numbers solidified the sound and added a wonderful depth to songs that are rarely heard without accompaniment. A Cappella was a spoken adventure in rhythm to creatively define the genre and highlighted great diction from each member of the chorus.
Smaller ensembles broke out for some songs. The HMC Chamber Ensemble sang the beautiful “If I Loved You” from Carousel, featuring a wide vocal range across the group, but also a hesitancy that is only fitting for the characters from the staged duet. “She Goes Shopping for Gucci” was a cute number by Burnt Ends with great accuracy in the highest voices and a touch of goofiness.
Luke Harbur joined HMC with some serious beatboxing skills. While many attempt percussive sounds with cute “boots and cats” jokes, the art of beatboxing can have a transformative effect on a performance. During Beatbox Extravaganza, Harbur suspended time with rhythm and was so aware of all surrounding vibrations that he incorporated the sounds of cheers into his number on the night reviewed. With the chorus, Harbur kept things simple while supporting the voices. Guest group KC A Cappalla is a local ensemble comprised of high-school students with great talent. Performing with such great energy and uniformity, they almost stole the show. Watching them, it was evident that the members were enjoying themselves—a visual aspect that speaks volumes to an audience. The soloists were fantastic and the choreography was fun; the group is an up-and-coming gem of the city.
A few classics found their way into the pop-centric program. With soloists placed in the box seats, Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria was stunning and instantly gave me chills when the lushness of the chorus swept through the theater. One of my favorite British folk songs, “Loch Lomond” featured the rich vocal talents of Michael De Voe with a lovely chordal backing. This arrangement by Jonathan Quick gradually shifted to a more uplifting style, lending a more optimistic interpretation of the poetry. “Home on the Range” gave a nod to the a cappella styles of barbershop quartets—with more than four singers this time—and settled into the familiar mash-up of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and “Over the Rainbow.”
Lighting becomes drama becomes everything. From brilliant colors to fitting projections, the lighting design was well thought out and considered each number to be a new canvas in need. During “Radioactive,” the chorus was involved with some mesmerizing flashlight-ography to give a visual “welcome to the new age.” And what HMC concert wouldn’t be complete without some drag? Pom-pom toting cheerleaders rooted for the KC Bar B Qs in “Cheerleader” while getting a little acrobatic near the end. The soloists in “Bellas Finals” from Pitch Perfect were sensational as they mimicked the choreography and character antics from the movie in signature scarves and heels.
Heartland Men’s Chorus certainly knows how to entertain, and its dedication to a higher level of musical excellence propels it to the fore of fun Kansas City ensembles that are not to be missed.
Heartland Men’s Chorus
March 19–20 (Reviewed Saturday, March 19, 2016)
300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO
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