While watching singer Josh Henry perform his Cabaret at the Columbia Club show in the elegant Crystal Terrace Room Saturday, it occurred to byteclay.com at one point, that pianist Frederic Chiu was to perform in that very same venue, Sunday. It also occurred to this writer that even though the two performers represented two very different genres of music—both were probably equal in musical virtuosity. And as it turned out, that estimation was well founded. Herein are reviews.
There is a reason why two-time Tony nominee Joshua Henry is in rehearsal for the much hyped George C. Wolfe/Savion Glover “Shuffle Along,” (opening in April, 2016) his seventh Broadway show. He is simply phenomenal. This reviewer attended Henry’s 7 p.m. show which was followed by another at 9:30 p.m.
Playing to an audience of primarily baby boomers, the charismatic 31-year old, wowed the mostly white audience with his velvety tenor voice and captivating showmanship. Celebrating his African-American heritage, Henry’s program consisted of mainly pop and a few Broadway songs with an R & B interpretation. Accompanying Henry was Michael Mitchell on piano, E.J. Strickland on drums, Sean Richey on guitar and Robert Wooten on bass.
Electrifying is the best way to describe Henry’s overall performance and the manner in which he conveyed deep emotion when he sang such songs as “Summertime” and “Feeling Good.” A highlight of the show was a clever segment Henry titled “History of Soul in 20 minutes.” Singing a medley of songs such as “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Express Yourself,” “Kiss” (this reviewer’s favorite),” “Ordinary Thing,” and “Get Up Offa That Thang,” Henry paid affectionate tribute to the performers who made them popular. However, rather than impersonating them, he effectively replicated their style.
An especially heartfelt moment in Henry’s act was his homage to James Brown’s rendition of “If I Ruled the World,” composed by Leslie Bricusse and Cyril Orander. Given the continuing racial polarization in this country, the song with its message of peace and harmony, deeply resonated with this writer.
Henry concluded the show with “Let It Sing” from the 2014 Broadway show “Violet.” in which he appeared with Sutton Foster. His riveting performance was clear evidence of why he is continually cast on Broadway and a demonstration of why he is such a high caliber entertainer.
Sam Cooke’s iconic “A Change Is Gonna Come” was Henry’s encore number. An expression of his obvious social consciousness, the song conveyed the humanity of an artist who strives to connect with his audience and in this instance—did so brilliantly.
For tickets and information about the 2016 Cabaret at the Columbia Club winter/spring call (317) 275-1169 or visit thecabaret.org.
Like the Cabaret at the Columbia Club, the American Pianists Association, headquartered in Indianapolis enjoys a reputation for showcasing gifted artists. In APA’s case, however, the performers presented are emerging artists whom the organization has supported for over 30 years. They do so by offering fellowships which are valued at over $100,000 including cash awards, fees, publicity and recording opportunities, to both classical and jazz pianist, ages 18-30.
The 1985 American Pianist Association Classical Awards winner Frederic Chiu was featured in a program titled “Classical Smackdown” – Prokofiev vs. DeBussy, Sunday at the Columbia Club. The concert was part of the APA’s “Grand Encounters” Classical Music Piano Recital Series.
Since his launch by the APA, Chiu has recorded over 20 CDs, toured all over the globe, performed in some of the world’s most renowned music venues, and partnered with some of the most famous names in classical music.
The “Smackdown” gimmick for Chiu’s concert presented after a delicious brunch, in front a sold out crowd, was all about audience participation. Chiu presented pieces from both Prokofiev and DeBussy after which audience members were asked to vote for their favorites on printed surveys, which were then turned in after the concert. Results were made available online later that evening. A Chiu CD and CDs of the two featured composer’s music were to be given as prizes to the winner of a drawing of forms submitted by those who participated.
The affable Chiu, wearing his trademark pony tail, showed impeccable technique and unbridled passion in a program, presented in 3 “rounds.”
Favorite pieces for this writer included Chiu’s breathtaking rendition of the dreamy “Claire DeLune” from “Suite bergamasque,” one of DeBussy’s piano suites. Also affecting were “Cloches a travers les fuilles” from “Images,” and “Jardins sous la pluie” from “Estampes.”
As far as the music of Prokofiev, stunningly conveyed by Chiu, the highly dramatic “The Montagues and the Capulets” from “Romeo and Juliet” and fiery “Diabolic Suggestions,” demonstrated the Chiu’s precise and powerful playing style.
Sitting among the other assembled music lovers in one of Indy’s most beautiful venues, this writer couldn’t have felt more relaxed, or inspired,, watching and listening to the dynamic Chiu. Known for his ability to make classical music accessible, the gifted musician created sounds of beauty and drama that were not only awe-inspiring but also sublimely transportive.
For information about American Pianists Association programs and performances call (317) 940-9945 or visit americanpianists.org.