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Liam Burke: Santa Barbara Children’s Chorus Hosts ‘An Evening of A Cappella and Jazz’

Men's and women's ensembles gather for an all-round impressive night of talent to support the young singers

The next time you’re cringing as you listen to the judges of The Voice trying to harmonize a simple tune, simply turn off your television set and book your tickets for the Santa Barbara Children’s Chorus! Or, should your child have vocal talent and a desire to pursue a singing career, enroll him or her in a chorus program for a solid foundation in the “voice.” For it’s no secret that singers who develop their ear for complex multipart harmonies always come out on top and get the job.

“An Evening of A Cappella and Jazz” by the Santa Barbara Children’s Chorus last Sunday at the Marjorie Luke Theatre proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable night of musical accomplishment. Half of the pleasure was in knowing that barbershop harmonizing is flourishing throughout the county, and hearing so many individuals working together to make a whole.

Opening with UCSB’s all-female group VocalMotion, the women performed four songs with confidence and polish, creating a plethora of instrumental sounds with their voices. The men’s group, Brothas From Otha Mothas, was surprisingly gentle and sang a poignant version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” They ended their set with a hilarious rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” complete with monster hand choreography.

Next came Naked Voices and the temperate power of Drew Brouwer, who led this co-ed UCSB group into a soul-stirring rendition of the Maroon Five hit “This Love.” It was a wonderful surprise to hear such a monumental pop song transposed into barbershop style, making the rendition as good as the original — and in some ways even better.

Pacific Sound, a Tri-County men’s choral ensemble, brought the evening up a notch as well, singing jazz standards, Beatles hits and a 1950s medley. Their harmonizing was passionately balanced, showing the great strength range of men’s vocal chords, from the bellowing bass to the lyrical falsetto, as they sang with great aplomb.

The 14 young singers of the Children’s Chorus performed only one song, but it proved the authenticity of the whole program. The age-appropriate and heart-warming “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was such a refreshing addition to the adult singing, particularly in this fame-driven, child-star age of entertainment, where all too often kids are given material beyond their understanding and capabilities.

The Santa Barbara Jazz Collective flourished in the intermittent breaks with a bevy of delicious jazz standards and lesser-knowns. Mariel Bildsten played the trombone with a beautiful, soulful edge, blending a more classical sound into the overall jazz cacophony. Members of the collective, founded in 2010, have great careers ahead of them as they already possess the perfect blending of instruments that you hear in seasoned musicians, after decades of gigs.

The amazing Ellen Rockne also roused the audience with a Nigerian chant that she taught the audience and proved that everyone in the house could actually sing. Executive director of the Children’s Chorus, Paul Freeman, hosted the evening and kept the crowd vocally interacting between the sets.

An all-round impressive night of talent to support the youngsters of the evening, the Santa Barbara Children’s Chorus. We can only hope to see more public performances by all of these groups in the near future, and perhaps in more intimate venues.

Noozhawk contributing writer Liam Burke covers dance and has been published in Dance Magazine, Dance Australia and The James White Review. He can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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