Reviewed by Nancy Oliveri
After 26 years as director of the Broome Community College Choir and its wonderful offshoot, the BCC Chamber Singers, Gerald Grahame is retiring. Maestro Grahame took his final bow last Wednesday night (May 15) in a free concert, “Madrigals and Modern Music,” in the school’s Little Theatre.
The program featured everything from Italian Renaissance songs and English Madrigal to American standards and pop favorites. Look, any concert that can include a madrigal about pipe smoking, “Come Sirrah Jack Ho” by Thomas Weelkes, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” arranged by Grahame himself (something he has always wanted to do), “Our Love is Here to Stay” by George Gershwin and Don Covay’s soulful “Chain of Fools” is OK in my book.
Notable was the solo during “Chain of Fools” from mezzo soprano Lauren Bass, a young woman who absolutely channeled the Motor City and got a mid-song ovation. Another fun moment was the introduction of the guest performer, boy soprano Johannes Mason, who did his best Frankie Valli in “Walk Like a Man.” His “ooOOoo-oo-oo-oo-oo-OOO” with a voice possibly on the verge of ch-ch-changing, sounded a little more like a siren than a falsetto bridge between passages, but you had to give the kid credit. He was nothing if not brave.
All selections were performed with apparent enjoyment on the part of the chorus, Maestro Grahame,and their long-time accompanist, Laura Nancy Kennedy, who has tickled the ivories for the group at least as long as Grahame had been its director and who received more than one enthusiastic accolade. For the modern pieces that needed more than a piano, bassist Andrew Croteau and percussionist Ryan Patterson were terrific.
And what concert would be complete without a nod to Broadway and Hollywood? Caleb Park, baritone; Corey Brady, bass, and sopranos Tamera Raysor and Hailey Wiggins lent their voices to a song made even more famous by some Scottish lady on TV’s Britain’s Got Talent, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables. Well, the BCC College Choir has talent too. It was lovely.
But I have to tell you, although it had been a long day already for this lady, I stayed until the end to hear (and watch) them perform “Africa,” by David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, which, I believe, was a very decent attempt to recreate the internet sensation (and Roger Emerson arrangement) that made the rounds a few years ago. It features the entire chorus creating the sounds of a Serengeti rainstorm, first by rubbing their hands together as the first few drops hit the ground, then snapping fingers as the rain got harder, then making pelting drops by slapping their thighs. Then, with one giant, unison leap on the risers, we heard a thunder clap. I meant to close my eyes to see if they had pulled it off, but it was more fun to watch and listen.
I love the harmonies of that song, as it was first performed by the band, Toto, but when an entire choir sings it, it’s very dramatic, and while they may have benefited from twice as many people creating the sound effects at the beginning, and maybe practicing nailing the jump a few more times, it was fine. I was glad I was in the very back row in a solitary chair, I was able to get up and sing along with them without anybody seeing or hearing me! I loved it.
Then, just when we thought that was the end, the chorus gifted Maestro Grahame with a song they’d prepared just for him on their own time, “The Road Home,” by Stephen Paulus. It was a bittersweet moment for all of them, and a fitting end to the career of an educator who welcomed and encouraged so many in the community and who will, by all accounts, be deeply missed.