THE SALTAIRES SHOW CHORUS, WITH THE GAS HOUSE GANG, NIGHTLIFE, FRED AND MICHIGAN JAKE, Saturday, Jan. 12, Cottonwood High School auditorium; one performance only.
CONTEMPORARY MUSIC CONSORTIUM, Sunday, Jan. 13, Jeanne Wagner Theatre; one performance only.
Saturday evening, the Saltaires Show Chorus was host to four championship barbershop quartets, as the Gas House Gang, Nightlife, FRED and Michigan Jake performed in a sold-out hall and for a wildly enthusiastic audience.
Each group displayed a unique approach to barbershop singing, and with their banter and jokes and smooth performances, the four quartets kept things lively throughout the three-hour show.
Before the first quartet appeared onstage, the Saltaires offered a medley of tunes from the 1930s and '40s, which included "Jukebox Saturday Night" and "Sing, Sing, Sing." The group was followed by the quartet Reprise from Brigham Young University, which offered a short set that was notable for its clear, clean sound. Reprise, whose members also sing in the Saltaires, did a great job with "Tonight" and "I'm Beginning to See the Light."
The Gas House Gang performed an outstanding set, putting a lot of humor into the music. But the group can also sing with great tenderness and poignancy, as demonstrated with "16 Tons," which featured bass Jim Henry, and "Mary Did You Know," a contemporary Christmas hymn.
Nightlife, which has Saltaires' director John Sasine as lead singer, distinguished itself with the variety of its set, standing out with renditions of "Route 66" and "Young and Foolish," the latter with a remarkable solo by Sasine. And the foursome's interpretation of "Blues in the Night" was a high point of the evening.
FRED is in a group by itself. The four performers don't just sing, they put on a whole routine. And they had the audience in stitches with their antics. As comedians they're hilarious and as singers they're incredible. Their set included everything from George Gershwin's "I've Got Rhythm" to Stephen Foster's "Suwanee River."
Michigan Jake is notable for the smoothness of its sound; "Piano Roll Blues" and "Why Do I Love You" were straightforward and sincere.
CONTEMPORARY MUSIC CONSORTIUM — Except for a couple of works, Sunday's concert by the Contemporary Music Consortium featured works by composers whose music is firmly entrenched in tonality. While this, no doubt, was a relief to those who shudder at the phrase "contemporary music," the narrow approach had the effect of miring the concert in boring repetitiveness.
The exceptions were Ann Hankinson's "Triog" for alto flute, viola and harp (played, respectively, by Laurel Ann Maurer, Leslie Harlow and Janet Peterson) and Miguel Chuaqui's Archeaopteryx" for solo flute (played by Maurer).
"Triog" works on exploiting the tonal colors of the three instruments. Hankinson effectively blends the distinctive sounds of the alto flute, viola and harp together. This unity of sound is then abruptly contrasted with passages in which the three instruments stand out with their uniqueness. And the piece was played beautifully by Maurer, Harlow and Peterson, as they captured the work's essence with subtle and nuanced playing
"Archeaopteryx" is a vividly expressive piece exploiting the flute's possibilities, and it was played with sensitivity by Maurer, who put feeling and passion into her interpretation. Her execution of the rapidly shifting dynamics and tempos, as well as the special effects (fluttertonguing and tapping the keys), made it come alive.
Frank Ezra Levy's Trio for flute, viola and cello had its world premiere at the concert. It is unashamedly tonal in character, and the four rather brief movements of the work are imbued with a romantic lyricism that gives it charm.
Also on the program were Ken Benshoof's "in Shadow, light" for piccolo, violin, viola and cello, and Henry Cowell's Trio for flute, violin and harp.