Annapolis Vocal Corps makes listening a joy

August 12, 1994|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Special to The Sun

When the seven members of the Annapolis Vocal Corps are performing, the listener forms a variety of impressions simultaneously.

One is bowled over by their sheer technical prowess, seamless blend of sound and telepathic sense of phrasing.

One also is struck by the suavity of Paul Michael Nathan's endlessly inventive arrangements, a repertoire that extends from Got You Under My Skin" to Manfred Mann's "Doo Wah Diddy," and a sense of pitch that allows the thorniest harmonies to flit by in the breeziest manner.

But what stood out as I watched Susan Marble, Lynne Mealey, Mr. Nathan, Stan Fletcher, Rick Pleva, Ed Keuthe and Pip Pippig in action at the Annapolis Dinner Theatre Wednesday evening was that they are simply in love with what they're doing.

They breathe their music, smile it, cuddle it and zing it out there with a palpable joy.

It's virtually impossible not to get caught up in such enthusiastic commitment. And not once through two sets of 27 songs each did this intensity flag.

The Corps has added Francene Cucinello, a talented choreographer, and she ought to be used even more in the club act. When she finally got to dance at the conclusion of a far too lengthy opening skit, her appearance was welcome indeed. I'd be willing to forgo much of the "drama" -- even Mr. Pippig modeling lingerie -- to see more of her.

The Corps sounds especially marvelous when the low voices are relieved of singing bass guitar lines and brought into the lyrical mainstream of the harmony. "I've Got You Under My Skin" sounded doubly wonderful because the "boom boom booms" finally took a well-deserved rest. More!

The group also should resist the temptation to spotlight its distinctive harmonic blend in every song. Once in a while the accompaniments get so involved, so intense, that a marvelous lyric or even the melody can get lost in the plushness of its surroundings.

And maybe the Corps could expand its repertoire. If the singers mixed Ellington and Basie with the gems they've already polished, the jazz clubs would be crazy not to give them a listen.

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