From the seats - Bobby McFerrin & SFYCA

  • Jul 6, 2010
I have nothing against the wonders of reality television, but if you spent your Monday night watching “The Bachelorette,” you just missed a once in a lifetime concert experience.  I recently returned from watching the Oregon Bach Festival’s Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy perform with Bobby McFerrin, and am absolutely astounded by what 85 high school students and a man with a microphone can communicate to an audience. The first half of the program showed off the SFYCA’s classical vocal chops, highlighted by the Kyrie from Bach’s Mass in B Minor led by Helmuth Rilling.  Working with Helmuth will certainly be a career highlight for many of the choir members, but the time they had with McFerrin is something they will never forget.  Half of the McFerrin set featured pieces from his album VOCAbuLarieS set for the choir, which were incredibly challenging to pull off (yet flawless).   The rest featured interactions between the choir, McFerrin, and the audience.  Highlights included riffs on audience member names, call and responses with the choir and audience, and a spontaneous sing-along of “I Can See Clearly Now” where I harmonized with the elderly couple sitting next to me.  If tonight’s concert wasn’t fun, I don’t know what is. While concerts are often a “sit quietly and listen” affair, the energy in the building this evening was palpable.  A normally shy audience was pulled from their collective shell, spontaneously interacting with McFerrin on songs and noises regardless of comfort level or vocal ability, and finished the concert with the most instantaneous standing ovation I’ve ever seen.  The choir jumped at every opportunity to collaborate with McFerrin, instantly responding to his vocalizations.  After a few syllables of what seemed to be nonsense, the choir would jump in to build a clear and vibrant harmony.  In short, it was an evening the students and the audience won’t soon forget.  I hope Keusch, Constantinescu, Taylor and Quasthoff are ready for Elijah, because the bar has been set for “best concert of OBF 2010.”

—Jesse the Intern

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