The musical spirits of Tony Bennett and Burt Bacharach were aglow Monday in The Villages Pops Chorus concert.
But the sellout crowd at North Lake Presbyterian Church enjoyed another musical treat – a rare vocal solo by Chorus Director Bill Davis.
Bennett died last week and Bacharach passed away in February. The Pops Chorus showed that the music of those two is eternal.
The concert featured, Davis said, a number of songs recorded by Bennett. The list included “Dream,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Where or When” and a cover of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”
“Tony Bennett was the master of the great American songbook,” Davis said. And the chorus captured not only the sound of those songs, but also the grace and appreciation that Bennett brought to them.
Bacharach was also a music master as a composer. The Chorus delivered a surprisingly emotional version of “I Say A Little Prayer,” a song that Bacharach wrote with Hal David. It was a hit for Dionne Warwick.
“They said it was a song written for soldiers away from home during the war,” Davis said in a low, reverent tone of voice while introducing the song.
“This was during the Vietnam War,” Davis added. “I think the song takes on a whole new meaning when you think of it that way.” Dave Czohara added to the song’s power with a Flugelhorn solo.
Davis usually spends his time at the Pops Chorus concert at the podium conducting the singers.
But this time he stepped in front of the microphone by himself for a heartfelt version of “Softly as I Leave You.”
Frank Sinatra recorded the song in the mid-60s, and it was later covered by Elvis Presley. “But I prefer the version by Matt Monro,” Davis said. “It’s about leaving someone you love, and it says that in a special way.” Davis offered a soft and compelling vocal that captured the essence of painful departure.
But you can’t stay down for long, especially when Bonnie Williams is in the room. The indefatigably perky Ms. Williams brightened everybody’s spirit with a jiving version of “Broadway Baby.”
Marlene Caplis was also percolating with an energetic vocal on “Orange Colored Sky.” The LaLiPops – Melody Gardner, BJ Odendahl and Debbie Tudor – kept the joint jumping with a rousing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
Harmonica virtuoso Phil Caltabellotta was in exquisite form, joining the chorus on a wistful “Moonlight In Vermont.”
“We like to say ‘we’re not your grandmother’s pops chorus,” Davis said early on. That message came through loud and clear as the men and women of the Chorus marched onto the stage with the musical background of “In the Midnight Hour.” The hit version of that song was by Wilson “the Wicked” Pickett. The Pops Chorus Band, led by Jo Ann Hanebrink, displayed some soul on that number.
The program was called “Summer Sunshine” and the fitting opening number was as fast-paced “You Are My Sunshine.”
The guys in the Chorus took on Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel” and the men and women combined for a tribute to Motown’s Smokey Robinson on “My Girl” and “My Guy.”
Summer sunshine can last forever and Davis and the Pops Chorus cooled the everlasting heatwave with a little bit of chill on the “Theme from Ice Castles.”
Tony Violanti covers music and entertainment for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.