Thursday, June 18, 2009

OK Mozart Festival - June 18 - The Ad-Libs

I'm loving all the concerts I've been able to attend at the OK Mozart Festival here in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and the best thing is, I haven't paid a thing. Yes, I could buy tickets for the large evening performances by well-known artists such as violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg or jazz great Chick Corea. All of those concerts would be wonderful. However, the old checkbook is a little short right now, so I decided to take advantage of all the free performances. And I haven't been disappointed. I'll write a separate entry about the Irish band Kilkenny Street that I enjoyed yesterday. However, today I'll concentrate on the singing group, the Ad-Libs, a group of fifteen middle-age and older men and women who thoroughly enjoyed performing for a standing-room only crowd this afternoon.

Because I had to search a little for parking, I got there a few minutes after the group began singing. The place was packed, not only with people sitting in chairs, but some at tables eating lunch and others standing at the back of the room. I actually found a seat in the back, right in front of one of the food tables, so I got smell delicious food throughout the performance. Yes, it made me hungry.

The Ad-Libs are ten women, five men, the conductor, the keyboardist, percussionist, and bass player. All the women were dressed in beautiful, sparkly black dresses and the men in sharp-looking suits. I would guess that the youngest was in his/her mid-fifties. But, how they could sing!

The first song I heard was the 1960s hit, "My Guy/Girl," and I kept visualizing the scene from one of my all-time favorite movies, "Sister Act," starring Whoopi Goldberg. Here's the way the nuns performed the song in that film:

Next, the women sang "Moonglow," by Benny Goodman. Here it is done by the Benny Goodman Quartet.

They followed that with the theme from the longest-running Broadway musical, "Cats."

After that we listened to "Once Upon a Time." Here are the lyrics. I'm sure you'll recognize the words.

Once Upon A Time
Tony Bennett
Words by Lee Adams and Music by Charles Strouse

Did not chart, although it was recorded by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Robert
Goulet, Al Martino, Jim Reeves, Diahann Carroll, Vic Damone, and Bobby Darin
Sung in the Broadway musical "All American" by Ray Bolger and Eileen Herlie

Once upon a time a girl with moonlight in her eyes
Put her hand in mine and said she loved me so
But that was once upon a time, very long ago

Once upon a time we sat beneath a willow tree
Counting all the stars and waiting for the dawn
But that was once upon a time, now the tree is gone

How the breeze ruffled up her hair
How we always laughed as though tomorrow wasn't there
We were young and didn't have a care
Where did it go?

Once upon a time the world was sweeter than we knew
Everything was ours, how happy we were then
But somehow once upon a time never comes again

My very favorite was "Ol Man River," from "Showboat," sung by an African American man with one of the most beautiful bass voices I've ever heard. He got a standing ovation. Here it is done by Al Robeson.

"Singin' in the Rain" was next, and then another rain-themed song that I hadn't heard before and didn't get the name. The men brought out their hats and canes, and the women their white parasols, which they opened and twirled at the end of the song. The percussionist's use of the rain stick, amplified by a mike, was also very effective.

They ended with a patriotic medley by Barry Manilow comprised of "My Country 'tis of Thee" and "Let Freedom Ring," and finally, "God Bless America," which they invited the audience to sing along with them. Here's Kate Smith's version:

I had an extra amount of fun listening to and watching the group because one of the men looked like he could have been the twin brother of a good friend of mine. Same hair, although not quite as white, same style, parted on the same side, a little mussed up. Same height (tall), with the same way of moving, turning his head, and holding his hands in front of him while singing. Yes, my friend used to sing a lot and starred in a number of little theater performances, among them as the lead in "Man of La Mancha. He's still got most of his beautiful tenor voice and I wish he'd sing more often.

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