The Lakeside Singers Review - Making Singers of Us All

Come and see

The Lakeside Singers could easily raise the average brow line of Chicago, and this has got to be one of the most fun ways to become more highbrow.  Anyone who has ever survived a three hour all- Mendelssohn concert should reward themselves by catching the Lakeside Singers the next time they are on a stage.

Robert Bowker is Founder and Conductor of the Lakeside Singers

Robert Bowker is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Lakeside Singers.  He is also the founder, assembling the group about ten years ago.  The group is fairly small – just twenty-four professional singers – but they have a wide range of musical proclivities.  Most of his singers have degrees in musical performance, and most are earning their livings with music. Having seen four of the Lakeside Singers’ concerts now, I imagine that Mr. Bowker put this group together to see how far he could push the musical envelope with the right talent and how much fun they could have in the process.  Not only can they perform brilliantly, but they can poke fun at all types of music in the process while keeping straight faces.  Many of the singers are also talented instrumentalists, and switch roles throughout the concerts.

This Lakeside Singers' number required some theatrical interpretation

As an example of the range of this group’s abilities, consider that they performed their April concerts singing selections in no less than seven languages, including Korean, Russian, Hebrew, and whatever language is spoken in Soweto.  And range! They offered an arrangement of Earth, by the Grammy-Award-winning Imogen Heap, and a selection from Mendelssohn’s Messiah. (There is nothing wrong with a little Mendelssohn taken in moderation).  

Robert Bowker conducts his group as they sing a classical number

The first half of Lakeside concerts are traditionally more serious, and the April concerts were no exception.   At least they seem to begin more seriously, what with the tuxedos and long black skirts. But you just never know what you’re going to get, and that’s the joy of it. The first song was Morning by Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, and part of the 2001 Space Odyssey soundtrack. 

The more "serious" first half of the concert features traditional dress

Though intense and complex, the song contains several cock-a-doodle doos.  Tenor soloist Nicholas Tonozzi sang a beautiful rendition of Mata Del Anima Sola by Venezuelan composer Antonio Estevez while his colleagues used their voices to create the accompanying sounds of guitars and harps.  Though the words to Kala, Kalla, by Eric Whitacre, were in Hebrew, the singers took me to a 1970s wide angle Panorama scene from the Austria Alps.  The Seasonings PDQ Bach had the Singers playing kazoos, slide whistles, a saxophone played with an oboe reed, and a shower hose, and to be honest, it bordered on noise.  To appreciate the tongue-in- cheek factor of the musical selections, consider Daniel Gawthrop’s Gaelic Blessing, which sounded  and was performed like a most reverent hymn, but contained these lyrics:

May those that love us, love us
and those that don’t love us,
may God turn their hearts,
and if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
may he turn their ankles
so we’ll know them by their limping.

The men wear tuxes for the more classical part of the concert

The Singers returned to the stage after intermission wearing their sparkle clothes, and the music moved in the direction of Pop. Andrew Distel and Sherry Robillard sang Where is Love from the stage play Oliver! as a beautifully romantic duet. 

The Lakeside Singers strike a casual note for the Pop selections

Dan MacDonald was the theatrical featured soloist for Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat.   Country was represented by Lisa Bowker and Melissa Smithson singing Little Big Town’s hit Boondocks.   And the Lakeside Singers showed that they were equal opportunity fun-pokers for Pop music too with the Title of the Song from Da Vinci’s Notebook.  No Lakeside Singers concerts would be complete without a Josie Falbo soulful solo, and her selection was You Pulled Me Through, by Diane Warren. 

Josie Falbo shares her soul and her song

Lakeside Singer concerts end with a sing-along.  In April we sang O Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble, I Feel Pretty, You’re So Vain, and I Love You Just the Way You Are, accompanied by 24 professional voices and the Singers’ small but versatile band. I sang my loudest and best, and left the concert feeling as if I had been to both a party and church. 

Upcoming performances of the Lakeside Singers include a July 23, 2010 8 PM appearance at the Ravinia Festival.  December concerts will be held at several Chicagoland locations on December 3, 4, 6, 17, and 20.  More information is available at

Photos by Joanna Nelson

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