Review: Annual Pops Concert

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Members of the Chamber Singers were locked and loaded for their 2012-13 debut.

BJ Robinson pulled the trigger.

Led by the talented and charismatic assistant conductor and choreographer, Southwestern’s vocal music department hit the target with a brilliant production of its Annual Pops Concert. Robinson rocked the Jason Mraz number, “Make it Mine,” backed ably by the SWC Chamber Singers. An inspired audience clapped along.

“This was definitely the best, smoothest running show since I’ve been here, since 2009,” said Robinson. “I really think it’s the best show yet.”

SWC’s Concert Choir, Chamber Singers and Vocal Jazz Ensemble stormed Mayan Hall led by Director of Choral Activities Dr. Terry Russell and Jazz Vocal Director Tracy Burklund.

Robinson, as always, was the man of the hour. SWC’s best-kept secret may soon find a larger audience as a contestant on a new singing contest called “Three Minutes to Stardom.” Robinson may not need his full three minutes. He can ignite a song in seconds.

Robinson is no stage hog. When Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” played, the Chamber Singers made it their own, allowing for everyone on stage to have a featured part.

Audience member Suzanne Mathews said the traditional choir was her favorite part of the show.

“I love the enthusiasm of the kids,” she said. “That’s why I come, they are so enthusiastic and I love that.”

Russell has been directing the Pops Concert for 20 years and has put SWC on the national map.

“All of the chamber singers, choir and jazz vocal were really well prepared,” she said. “Everything went really smooth. It was an excellent level of musicianship for four weeks preparation.”

Jazz Vocal Ensemble soloists Braxton Corbin and Eva Flores jazzed up “The Lady is a Tramp” like they had been singing together for 20 years rather than four weeks.

Talented students like music major Stacey Barnett, 22, were at the vanguard. Her sweet and mellow interpretation of “September in the Rain” was only the introduction to her talents. She also played an exceptional “trumpet solo” during “Audience Blues in F,” a song created by the Jazz Vocal Ensemble. Barnett used only her lips and voice to create the sound effect of a trumpet.

“I thought it was really fun and I know it’s a thing that people think is silly,” said Barnett. “I was enjoying myself.

Barnett found herself comfortable enough to perform because of the great support system among the musicians.

“I thought it was really fun and people did really well,” said Barnett. “It was great to see new people do solos that hadn’t before. It was nice to watch people improve. In the Jazz Vocal group, we have a lot of new people and I was really impressed with how they did since they haven’t been in that class before.”

Shelley Courchaine, Judy Lou Fisher and Mary Lou Fisher dazzled with “Lift Me Up” and “Defying Gravity.”

An energetic mash up of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” can be compared to what people see on “Glee” but with SWC flair.

“One of the many things that I am happy about is that it’s an elective program,” said Russell.

“People don’t have to be there. They’re getting something out of it or they wouldn’t keep coming back. I feel very honored and it’s very rewarding.”

Russell and her vocal music crew will perform at the Winter Choral Concert, November 18 in the Mayan Hall Theatre. Robinson and his mates will be there, too, so it ought to be a hot ticket.

 

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