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Christmas Music - Sunnyside Singers
December 21, 2018
 

Sunnyside Singing, Plus, for Holiday Cheer

The Sarasota Music Club always has interesting programs at their once-a-month meetings. Occasionally, club business will actually be conducted, but the meeting is primarily an excuse to hear some music. The music at the December meeting last Friday was mainly provided by the Sunnyside Singers, a group of thirty who are primarily residents of Sunnyside Village, conducted by Suzanne Stearns. Musicians are supposed to watch their conductor, and in this case, they could hardly not – her conducting is of the energetic, insistent sort, and sure enough, all eyes were on her. No shrinking violets here, they all sang with big, full voices, and produced a very satisfying choral sound, with nice part-singing.
 
People who play wind instruments have mouthpieces or reeds stuck in their mouths, and their faces have to contort to control the sound. Singers have a great advantage in having faces. Well, we all have faces, but I mean, they can use their faces to help tell the story of the songs they are singing. As a flutist, I envy them for this. So, when I sing, I try to use my face to communicate. And when I am at a concert given by singers, I look for faces that reflect the words being sung. This caused me to home in on several singers in this group:  Lydia Johnston, Nancy Richter, and Rosemary Tantalo were among these; I know their names because they were identified during the program. Several others also caught my eye – I wish I could call them out, too, but, unless the singers start wearing their names tattooed on their foreheads, I’m at a loss. Of course, some of the singers looked rather dour as they were singing about the joys of Christmas – definitely a mixed message! From personal experience I know they were not thinking glum thoughts, they were just concentrating really hard on doing the music right, so they had their thinking faces on, not their joyful ones!
 
I was delighted that Nancy Seibert brought her accordion. She was doing the announcing very nicely, when all of a sudden, she wriggled her way into the accordion and played a Christmas Polka that she and a friend wrote several years back. She is an excellent accordionist! A person can’t help smiling at the cheerful sounds of a well-played accordion, as Lawrence Welk proved again and again. He made a pretty good career doing that. Nancy, it’s not too late...
 
A real surprise came next in the program. A guest artist named Lucas Couras, a student at Stetson, sang several arias from Handel’s Messiah. His baritone-ish Tenor voice, used in “Comfort Ye” and “Every Valley,” is a nicely-developed instrument, but, and here is the surprise, he also has a very impressive Countertenor voice, which he used in “But Who May Abide.” This voice is produced when a man goes into his “head voice,” singing falsetto. For most of us mere male mortals, this produces a squeaky sound, but for some lucky ones it produces a powerful, very expressive voice.  Couras is one of the lucky ones. I predict that his “money voice” will turn out to be the Countertenor, and I wish for him a long and productive career. [Lucas participated in the Jeannie/Stephen vocal competition in 2017, sponsored by Sarasota Music Club, and was selected as Runner-Up.]
 
Accompanying Couras at the piano was Lee Dougherty Ross – where have I heard that name before?
The Sunnyside Singers were quietly and very capably accompanied by Barbara Roth-Donaldson. We audiences tend to take the accompaniment for granted. We shouldn’t. The accompanist is seldom the star, yet is required to have great technical and musical skill, which both of these did.
 
So, thank you, Stearns and company, for a varied, well-produced Christmas program. The tradition of Dorothy Whaley and Wes Snyder goes on! 
 
Another Openin’...Another Show......
 
The Lyric Duo
Overnight Miracle - Amy Jo Connours