GCU Choirs Make Broadway Favorites Sound Fantastic in Concert
Review by Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Photos by Tim Winzeler
Familiar material performed fabulously has made the Music Department’s concert of Broadway show tunes one of its most popular performances of the year, rivaling the Christmas concert in terms of audience appreciation.
GCU’s three choirs — the Canyon Chorale, the Canyon Singers and the New Life Singers — pumped new life into several old favorites Friday night at First Southern Baptist Church and were justly rewarded with a standing ovation at the end. The 90-minute program also included a few opera and pop selections.
With the church nearly full, the 16-member New Life Singers kicked off the evening with three numbers, highlighted by a dramatic arrangement of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” featuring the vocals of Jeannette Montenegro, who is familiar to many on campus for her participation in the Chapel band. New Life has matured noticeably this year under the direction of Gabe Salazar and is now capable of performing a much wider variety of music.
The 25-member Canyon Singers, directed by Dr. Sheila Corley, followed with a seven-song set that included “Somewhere” from “West Side Story,” two songs from the Aaron Copland opera “The Tender Land” and a soaring “Make Our Garden Grow” from “Candide.”
The brightest moment in the set came with Lauren Bailey’s coquettish rendition of Kristin Chenowith’s “Taylor the Latte Boy,” in which the singer rhapsodizes about a barista at Starbucks on whom she has a secret crush. Bailey’s pleasing alto voice and her girl-next-door persona are ideally suited to such material, recalling a splendid duet from “Parade” that she performed in last year’s show-tunes concert. (That concert, titled “Love Through the Ages,” was tied to Valentine’s Day.)
Guest pianist Mark Fearey then brought down the house with a “rebuttal” in which he agonizes about being the object of unwanted attention from “Lauren the Stalker Chick.”
The hers-and-his songs, written by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, are lightweight delights and were given expertly playful treatment by Bailey and Fearey.
To conclude a concert, there’s nothing quite like the sonic power of the 74-member Canyon Chorale, which sang from hit shows such as “The Producers,” “Into the Woods,” “Rent,” “The Lion King,” “Wicked” and “Hairspray,” as well as Verdi’s opera “Nabucco.”
A duet by Adam Benavides and Micah DeShazer on “Agony” (from “Into the Woods”) was terrific in the way it utilized the theatrical talents of both, and the bongo-accented “The Circle of Life” (from “The Lion King”) was a crowd-pleaser, as expected.
The mighty Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Juan Hernandez, concluded with the reverential “Pilgrims’ Hymn” (from “The Three Hermits”). For this song, the choir members left the stage and took positions on the perimeter of the auditorium as Hernandez stood alone at the front, facing out and directing them in a surround sound-like presentation that worked magnificently.
GCU’s three choirs have made impressive strides in a short period of time for several reasons.
The Music Department has been able to offer scholarships at a time when other colleges and universities are cutting back in the arts, attracting some of the best high school and community college vocalists, as well as transfer students. The talents of Hernandez, Corley and Salazar seem to be meshing perfectly for the not-even-2-year-old College of Fine Arts and Production under Dean Claude Pensis.
Last but not least, the hard work of the students — several of whom are involved in theatre as well — is paying huge dividends in performance, as everyone in the house on Friday could tell.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.