Well, I might as well admit it—I consider The Lakeside Singers Christmas concert at Evanston's Music Institute of Chicago a necessary part of our Christmas tradition. These singers deliver! The Lakeside Singers are dedicated to bridging the worlds of classical and popular choral music by presenting a wide range of musical styles—including cross-cultural, classical literature from around the world as well as stylistically authentic arrangements of jazz, gospel, rock, folk, R&B and other popular genres—at the highest artistic level.
Like every concert we’ve enjoyed so far, this one was filled with surprises consistently characterized by perfect diction. This is essential to the musicality of every piece. In an exotic Portuguese solo, "Sa aqui turo zente pleta," brilliantly interpreted by Ned Lott, the words were so musical he was accompanied only by a drum; a Chanukah song was at one moment peppy, the next sophisticated, but the Hebrew--whether you understand it or not--was crystal clear. This, of course, also applies to the numbers in English including my favorite, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," where, in some cases, the diction was squawking French hens, gabby calling birds, and bickering partridges, etc.
Last night, a full house of avid fans came in from the wintry cold to celebrate The Lakeside Singers tenth anniversary of performing in Evanston. A unique group of outstanding professional singers, composers and arrangers, half have the majority of their performing experience in classical choral music and half in non-classical styles.
Individually, they have performed in TV and radio commercials, operas, early music ensembles, film scores, Broadway shows, jazz clubs, cruise ships, cabarets and classical and popular concerts across the country. Artistic Director and Conductor Robert Bowker ties it all together with his wit, wisdom and winning way.
Few other groups give their audiences both a well-studied classical sound during the first half of the concerts and a totally different experience when the same group of singers moves to microphones in front of a live band for the second half. What is consistent is the Lakeside Singers’ commitment to mutually respect their differing skills and learn from each other, while delivering the highest level of musical integrity no matter what the style.
Because my Christmas season has already jangled my nerves, I preferred the reflective mood of the traditional music in the first act to the contemporary sound of the second. But the band never disappoints-- several of the singers casually morph into impressive accompanists. For example, Jon Negus is a standout in this regard. One minute he's belting it out and the next, he's playing a red hot sax. Some "band!" It even includes a cello, played by Nicholas Tonozzi and a vibraphone played by Craig Wahlgren. All this plus Josie Falbo's high energy gospel encore!
The Lakeside Singers are headquartered in Evanston and operate under the leadership of Robert Bowker, noted singer, conductor, composer, arranger and producer. The devotion of The Lakeside Singers to their music is evident. Individuals must audition for acceptance to the group and must re-audition every two years. While the group is headquartered in Evanston, most of the group do not reside there but come to rehearse every week from as far away as Vernon Hills, Lake Zurich, Elmhurst, Oak Park and the south side of Chicago.
The Lakeside Singers' joy and appreciation of the broad range of musical styles they present is contagious - offering their audiences the unique opportunity to indulge their individual musical tastes and to acquire an appreciation of the beauty and value of great music of any style.
Lakeside Singers will perform this year’s Christmas Concerts on Saturday, December 6 at 7:30 pm at the Raue Center for the Arts, Crystal Lake; Monday, December 8 at 8:00 pm at Metropolis, Arlington Heights; Monday, December 15 at 7:30 at the Harris Theater, Millennium Park, Chicago; and Friday, December 19 at 8:00 pm at Wentz Concert Hall, North Central College, Naperville. Visit www.lakesidesingers.com for reservations and information.
Photos courtesy of Lakeside Singers