Special to The Item
Over the years, I've heard
musicians who have lived and been with their instruments longer than most life-times.
Every breath, beat, pause and inflection become significant and an integral part
of the piece played and the musician playing.
Tuesday night at Patriot all,
an appreciative crowd was given a rare experience of two veteran (but relatively
young) musicians sharing their lives and gifts. Lorna Dallas came on stage after
a brisk overture by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and with a strong, warm
voice proceeded to render a lesson in American show music in the following two
hours. Don Pippin, her longtime colleague, conducted his arrangements of popular
Ms. Dallas was sincere and personable on stage, giving a nod to the
location with Carolina in the Morning. As with most folks who perform
routine tasks (and singing a regular though wide-ranging repertoire on stage night
after night can become routine), stage patter can become scripted and almost expected.
I am sure that some of what we heard Ms. Dallas has said many times, but
a genuine appreciation of the audience, it would have sounded forced and stiff.
Ms. Dallas has a real appreciation and enjoyment of the songs she sings and the
people who hear her sing them.
Her voice, clear and wide ranging, never
strained, although the orchestra threatened to overpower her on occasion. As she
worked her way through selections from George Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, Kurt
Weill, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and others, it became apparent that we were hearing
student who honors the lyrics as well as the music. Her voice served
the song, and while demonstrating her wide range and skill, Ms. Dallas ensured
we heard the words and felt their emotional impact.
Mr. Pippin's arrangements
were masterful. In a song style where histrionics become the norm, Mr. Pippin's
understanding of the nuances of Ms. Dallas voice was obvious. Where a lesser arranger
would have gone for brass and volume, his arrangements were sensitive and tasteful,
complementing Ms. Dallas dedication to lyric.
An excellent example was their
approach to Billy Hill's The Glory of Love. Treating the piece gently
as a low-key ballad, Mr. Pippin kept the orchestra's dynamics under control, and
Ms. Dallas gave a wistfulness to a song usually heard as a rollicky bouncing romp.
In Where or When by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, an imaginative
arrangement set rhythms against each other in such a way that Ms. Dallas was free
to present the lyrics expressively without losing time. This arrangement worked
well, with the orchestra skillfully following Mr. Pippin's direction.
attending a concert where three different units come together, it is always impressive
to see and hear those units work well. Ms. Dallas and Mr. Pippin had only two
rehearsals with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. On the whole, the orchestra
was impressive in balancing their sound and following the volume and rhythm changes.
Each instrument had a distinct voice which could be heard even as it created a
more unified effect.
One of the most difficult instruments to control is
the seemingly simple triangle. Percussionist Ed Nagle gave an edgy performance
during the orchestra s Kern Fantasy, executing a complex rhythm and
making the triangle an instrument instead of a dinner bell. The French horn section,
as oboist Mark Gainer, showed excellent tonal
The several numbers the orchestra played without Ms. Dallas
did suffer a bit. While excellent musicians were playing exceptional arrangements,
the band did not swing when needed. In Alexander's Ragtime Band the
beat was stiff and nearly a march cadence. This stiffness of rhythm occurred in
another orchestra-only tune, where the piano and celeste were bordering on strident
without a feel for the song being played.
With Ms. Dallas on stage however,
the pianist provided an expressive, empathic accompaniment, particularly on Sondheim's
Send in the Clowns. Ms. Dallas voice provided the swing on this evening
when working with the full orchestra.
To acknowledge the difficulties of
the past weeks, and to remind us all of the gifts we share, Ms. Dallas ended the
night with an understated version of God Bless America.
greatest pleasure of the evening was seeing two old friends comfortable together
on stage making the music they both love. Ms. Dallas, Mr. Pippin, and the Charleston
Symphony Orchestra managed to shrink Patriot Hall to an intimate space where we
all became reacquainted with songs we had not
heard in so long.
Fine Arts Council of Sumter has always done an excellent job of providing quality
entertainment to the community. Tuesday night's event continued that tradition.
Hinnant is a local musician who grew up listening to and playing many different
styles of music.
Photo courtesy of The Item