Oct. 17--Magen Solomon and German Aguilar sing a similar tune about Broadway songs. From both ends of the spectrum.
"What they all have in common is wonderful melodies, wonderful harmonies, wonderful textures," said Solomon, conductor and artistic director of the Stockton Chorale. " 'My Fair Lady' has been my favorite since I was a kid. I've seen the shows and the movie so many times. I always sing along. They're still so beautiful. It's just so impressive how well they've lasted."
That timelessness and her ongoing affection are big reasons why a program of Broadway tunes -- including a six-song medley from "My Fair Lady" (1956) -- opens the Chorale's 62nd season Friday in Stockton and Saturday in Lodi.
It's not just old-school sentimentality, though.
"It's a really important piece of American history," said Aguilar, whose teenaged Valley Youth Chamber Choir sings some slightly more recent selections as part of "Broadway Blowout." "It's so good for the kids to sing it as part of the music-education atmosphere. It's an elevated art form. It's really fun. The themes are all love. Being excited about meeting somebody. Friendship. Things they can relate to."
In addition to the Chorale's 61 members, there are 16 voices in the Master Chorale, 23 in Aguilar's group and 35 in the Youth Chorale conducted by Joan Calonico.
The 72-minute concert -- "well, it'll be longer if we get lots of applause," Solomon said -- includes 36 titles from 23 shows dating back to "Give My Regards to Broadway," the all-sing finale from George M. Cohan's "Little Johnny Jones" (1904).
"There's a lot of great music," said Solomon, an Oakland resident who's beginning her fourth season with the chorale and spent 50 hours researching and assembling the program's tunes and medleys. "Some are arranged very well. Some very badly. I looked at a wide variety of shows. Some ballads. Some up-tempo. They're familiar, well-written and idiomatic for the voice."
They constitute a body of work that Solomon said stands sturdily with any ever created.
"I don't think of different eras," she said. "Broadway music fits alongside operas. Alongside folk. Alongside a cappella. Alongside orchestral stuff. People put a divide where really there should not be a divide.
"It's the same basic structure in all cultures. It applies to all of this stuff. Basically: Is the next part (of a song) different, the same or sort of the same? Guys sweeping the streets in Italy are singing opera the way they might be singing Broadway songs here."
It's not quite that way for 13- to 18-year-old students.
"Kids, 10 years ago, knew 'Grease' (from 1971) but still were confused by it," said Aguilar, in his fourth year as choral director at San Joaquin Delta College. "Broadway is so familiar, though pop music has changed so much. With the catchy melodies and themes of Broadway or pop you can be more of an actor than in a choral piece."
He did get one instantly enthusiastic reaction.
"Especially, when I broke out a song from 'Wicked,' " Aguilar said of "For Good," from the 2003 production. "They went bananas. It's very much in the vernacular. Even the boys. They all really, really liked it."
Aguilar's group has doubled in size since being formed last year. That's a pleasing development for Solomon, who now teaches a "Joy of Singing" class at University of the Pacific on Wednesdays.
"My goal is to get as many people singing as much as possible," said Solomon, who also directs the San Francisco Choral Artists. "This isn't just music for people with pointy heads. I really object to this idea of classical music being only for Ph.D.s or the very rich. Country-western can be moving in the same way that (Franz) Schubert songs can be moving. It's music for regular people. Not snobs."
While nonprofit arts groups face ongoing challenges in the current economy and 24/7 high-tech entertainment age, Solomon is encouraged by the chorale's progress. That includes the Stockton Singers, a group formed in 2013 for those who mostly don't read music.
"Oh, I'm thrilled," she said. "Absolutely thrilled. They're all growing. All getting better. We're able to do a wider and wider range of repertoire. I'm really happy. I'm really hoping to offer singing to all ages and skill levels.
"It's a constant challenge, letting the community know we even exist. In our 62nd season. It seems funny. That's one thing I'm really unhappy about. We're truly an organization for anyone. Not a club. We're here for the greater valley community."
Programs such as "Broadway Blowout" should help.
Contact reporter Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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