Monterey Peninsula Voices under the direction of Dr. Sean Boulware definitely took us to to the movies for this rousing program on May 13 at the newly-renovated Monterey Conference Center. Boulware knows how to get the best from this group of 100+ singers of all ages and abilities. What could be better than music representing a wide variety of films? So much of the enjoyment of almost any film is the emotion provoking background music. While some can be older music rearranged, so much is newly and specifically created for a film. Whether warning of impending gloom and doom or the lushness of a romantic pastoral scene, music pulls at our emotions. As these enthusiastic singers demonstrated, any emotion is available and has been arranged musically. So, in the newly remodeled and sterile gray of the ballroom, the Peninsula Voices transported the audience to these movie locations in musical ways for the audience to enjoy.
Instrumentalists in addition to the singers added another layer of musical variety. The main piano artist remains Michelle Galindo, who continues to handle any keyboard challenge thrown to her. She was assisted by lead guitarist Noah Reeves, bassist Jason Stout and Darrin Thomas on drums. Bluegrass players included Craig Collord, banjo, Dan Lynch, fiddle and Stout on bass. An unusual percussion ensemble showing off their rhythmic precision on several numbers is the Shinsho Mugen Daiko Players. Yet another accompanying group was made up of Ukulele Songbirds and MPV Ukulele Players.
Opening number was “Let’s Go to the Movies” from Annie – definitely the perfect opening number. The enthusiasm was then set to lead into the Tim Burton version of “Alice’s Theme” from Alice in Wonderland. If familiar with Burton’s skewed versions of the world, this was not a sweetness and light song. Jazzy scat took over “The Pink Panther Theme,” and from the sounds and looks on the singers faces, this was a favorite. Soloists Thompson Lange and Robin Jepsen were featured in “Over the Rainbow” not as Judy Garland sang but Israel Kamakawiwio’ole. The previously mentioned ukulele group provided fun and “authentic” accompaniment.
Star Wars fans were treated to “Duel of the Fates” from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace complete with personal background and green light sabre from Boulware. Boulware then provided solid percussion on “Let the River Run” from Working Girl. Back to Tim Burton and “The Nightmare before Christmas” medley that featured Isaiah Boulware costumed as Jack Skeleton as the conductor and bass Russ Cureton on the “Oogie Boogie’s Song.” Sister Act movies have had quite a following and “Joyful, Joyful” featuring Rachel DeMaster was most likely not the version Beethoven had in mind. Rounding out the first half was a medley of five songs from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Featured soloists included Diane Ehlers wanting all to “Keep on the Sunny Side,” Terrill Dahl inviting the listener “Down to the River to Pray.” In an absolutely riotous version of “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” Morgan Vetter grew an enormous beard and almost brought down the house.
More movie themes and trivia followed in the second half. The audience “call back” was a bit unusual, though, as the Daiko Players launched into a heart pounding, rhythmic bone shaking routine. The seven drummers were incredibly precise in the choreography of the rhythm. As the audience returned to their seats, many were absolutely mesmerized by this group as evidenced by the number of cell phones recording! As the singers performed “We Know the Way” from Moana, the percussion continued as an underpinning. A more serious theme from Amistad, “Dry Your Tears, Afrika,” also utilized this incredible percussion group as well as a small ensemble from within the larger group. Another scat setting was “James Bond Theme” again showcasing the written scat to sound improvised.
The improbable “Ghostbusters” theme drew great laughs from the audience. One of Boulware’s great “loves” is finding medleys and “Disney Movie Magic” is definitely at the top for including twelve themes from seven films. Many soloists were featured in the various segments including Vetter, Ehlers, Phil Price, Jen Seregos, Marissa Maguire, Bob Felice, Michelle Boulware, and Linda Hylle. Among Boulware’s many strengths is fostering and encouraging soloists from within the group. All who were mentioned seemed especially fit for their particular turn as a soloist. “Jai Ho” from Slum Dog Millionaire yet again used the Daiko group as backup. Peggy Brown was featured in “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen as used in the movie, Shrek. The Greatest Showman is giving listeners and moviegoers a number of new songs including “From Now On.” This moving song of validation featured soloist John Lett and was a most fitting end to a program of over the top moments from movies as envisioned by the Monterey Peninsula Voices.
Any movie goer who missed this program, missed out on the incredible number of films and music represented. Boulware and his singers and instrumentalists continue to support and reinforce a group of multi ages and talents. If you are thinking it might be fun to be part of this engaging group, contact [email protected]