May 21, 2009

Lexington Singers lets audience pick the songs for 50th season’s pops concert.

The Lexington Singers has celebrated a 50th-anniversary season by presenting world premiere works, performing at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington and having the group’s conductor on the podium for the annual Messiah performance.

Now, it’s time for a party.

That’s what the group aims to do Saturday night with its annual pops concert, this year titled Fan Favorite Pops.

To put the show together, music director Jefferson Johnson and several members of the group combed through five decades of pops programs to come up with a menu of 120 pieces for people in the Singers’ audience to vote on.

“All this year we’ve been celebrating the artistic excellence that’s been a hallmark of this group,” Johnson says. “With this show, we wanted to reach out to the audience and fans.”

Not that reaching the fans means leaving artistic excellence behind. In fact, the top vote-getter presents the Singers with a big challenge from an unexpected source: the Beach Boys.

A medley of the surfer boys’ tunes by Jay Flippin turned out to be the No. 1 pick by fans, and it includes the vocal tour de force Good Vibrations.

“It is a tapestry of vocal styles,” Johnson says of the song that Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s publicist described as a “pocket symphony.” The song routinely winds up at or near the top of lists of the top singles of all time.

The Beach Boys medley represents the primary constant of the Singers’ pop shows over the years: medleys arranged by Flippin, the group’s longtime accompanist and composer.

“Jay Flippin’s medleys are the ones everyone gets excited about,” says Nick Nickl, the Singers’ board president.

Johnson says, “He is an expert on the history of pop music. His arrangements are perfect, and he has a photographic memory for album covers.”

Other songs rating high in the fan survey represent a broad range of the Singers’ 50 years, Nickl says, including older classics When I Fall in Love and Over the Rainbow and recent hits including Colors of the Wind and Seasons of Love.

Adding to the show’s audience participation angle will be a quartet of judges, picked from the audience, who will select one number for an encore. It’ll give the evening an American Idol vibe, although Nickl emphasizes that there’s no room for Simon Cowell wannabes.

“They just pick the one they want to hear,” Nickl says. “They aren’t there to critique the ones they didn’t want to hear.”

After all, this concert is a celebration.

Reprinted courtesy of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
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