The Item

Dallas and Pippin give a lesson in popular song

Lorna with micA REVIEW

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 song.

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
without 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 a serious
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.

When 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 well
as oboist Mark Gainer, showed excellent tonal
control throughout the evening.

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.”

The 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.

The 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.

Allen Hinnant is a local musician who grew up listening to and playing many different styles of music.

Photo courtesy of The Item

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