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Western Wind Sextet

A Cappella Vocal Ensemble Come to Key West

This season the Impromptu Classical Concerts offers the Key West audience something different. Appearing at St. Paul’s Church on January 24, 4 PM, the internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble Western Wind Sextet will share the special beauty and variety of a cappella music; the first ever a cappella concert hosted by the cultural organization. The ensemble will call upon its diverse background – from Renaissance motets to Fifties finger-snapping Doo-Wop, from love songs Italian style to Judaica selections, from complex works by avant-garde composers to the simplest folk melodies. The ensemble – sopranos Michele Kennedy, Linda Lee Jones; tenors Todd Frizzell, David Vanderwal; counter-tenor William Zukof and baritone Elliott Z. Levine – are “excited to sing for the first time in the Florida Keys!”

The program kicks off with a Shakespeare tribute in which the Bard’s lyrics and sonnets are given fresh interpretation in musical form. Included in the selections, playfully entitled “Warbling Notes”, are songs celebrating “Much Ado About Nothing” (Sigh no more, ladies, sign no more; Men were deceivers ever); “Henry VIII”; “Twelfth Night”; “Love’s Labours Lost” (The cuckoo then, on every tree, Mocks married men, for thus sings he, Cuckoo) and “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”.

“Amore! Love Italian Style” is the title of the next collection which begins with “Prendi L’Aurata Lira”, an ode to Urania, the muse of Astronomy who governed “the music of the spheres” which was believed to affect the inner harmony in the individual soul. Also included in the set are two scenes from “L’Amfiparnaso: A Madrigal-Comedy” from 1594. The madrigal comedy was a light, popular, and dramatic entertainment form of the late 16th century, sometimes regarded as one of the precursors to opera.

The first half of Western Winds’ program concludes with – “Sing Me A Little Song!”- Judaica selections. “Tumbalalaika” is a popular wedding song typical of those that sprang up in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe in the 19th century. These songs provided rich source material for American popular and theater songs crafted by Tin Pan Alley songwriters of Eastern European Jewish descent. Tragically, the gifted composer of “Yome, Yome”, Viktor Ullman, was sent to Auschwitz in 1944 where he met his death in the gas chamber. Just before he was deported, his friends persuaded him to leave his compositions behind.

Following intermission, the ensemble performs “Simple Gifts”, selections of American origin. “Euroclydon, An Anthem for Mariners” was composed by William Billings, who, interestingly, was a friend of both Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. Euroclydon refers to a stormy east or northeast wind. Typical of what became known as “White Spirituals” is “Bower of Prayer:, composed by E. J. King in 1850. The set ends with a Negro spiritual “The Angels Done Bowed Down” and the well-known Shaker piece which lends its name to the set – “Simple Gifts”.

The program wraps up on a finger-popping note. The set – “Life Could Be A Dream”- begins with a Duke Ellington favorite “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and then seamlessly segues into “In My Room” (The Beach Boys), “And So It Goes” (Billy Joel) and a funky arrangement of the Crewcuts’ seminal Fifties hit “Sh’Boom”. Poodle skirt optional. The program’s final tune is “America/Rte 66 ” arranged by Key West’s own Gayla Morgan. Gayla’s arrangement combines the songs “America the Beautiful” with “Route 66,” and also includes hints of West Side Story’s “America”.

Concert tickets are $20 at the door one hour before the performance or online: Keystix.com or classicalconcertskw.com. Any questions please call 305.745.2283, Season subscription pass (6 concerts) – $100. Subscription passes can be used for all concerts or for multiple guests at one or more concerts. All students free.

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