The Los Medanos College Recital Hall was at full capacity Tuesday night as Professor Sylvester Henderson’s Chorus Chamber Chorale and Gospel Ensemble and friends played a two-hour concert, featuring a wide range of musical genres, from showtunes to Stevie Wonder.
In the show’s introduction, Henderson said the night’s performers ranged from professional musicians to students singing in front of an audience for the very first time, as was the case with opener Marriel Fontanilla, who showed no nerves while performing Stephen Sondheim’s “No One Is Alone.”
Five fellow soloists followed, with Michael Burks singing the “Secret Garden” tune “How Could I Ever Know,” a solid performance marred by the backing track’s well-worn-vinyl hiss. Clarisa Melgoza was up next with “Losing My Mind.” Melgoza’s superb vocals paired well with her evocative face, combining for a powerful performance.
Tayadi K. Bush-Bodely ably tackled “Since I Gave My Heart Away” next. “Sometimes a Day Goes By” was the next tune. Alize Vance performed the “Woman of the Year” song with gusto.
The Recital Hall’s dramatic lighting and Elysse Green’s poof collaborated for some appropriately thematic facial shadowing when Green sang “Once Upon a Dream” from “Jekyll & Hyde.”
LMC alumni Richard Hayes sat down at the piano to accompany Sarah Brumfeld for a wonderful blue-eyed soul rendition of John Legend’s “Ordinary People.”
Hayes and Brumfeld made way for Miranda Vizcarra-Tortolero and her brief but pleasant performance of the titular song from “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.”
The solo performances were wrapped up with Hayes coming back for a good rendition of “Come Away!” and a fantastic, emotional performance of “Eternal Life” by Rachel Penrod.
Many of the soloists returned to the stage for the Chamber Chorale segment of the concert, and if their individual performances were good, their combined effort was great. Each of the vocal cogs combined wonderfully in the songs’ intricate patterns to create performances that were both beautiful and thrilling.
After two songs, soloists Aliya Hall and Matthew Sutton stepped down to share their skills. Taylor embodied the wistful sadness of “Once Upon a Time,” while Sutton impressively navigated the Italian opera number “Ombra Mai Fu.” Both returned to the chorale and the group finished with the spiritual “I Can Tell the World.”
A diverse trio of acts followed that typified the spirit of the night. First up was Benjamin Ofori, a friend of Henderson’s and the founder of the Bodac African Cultural Group, though he was sure to make clear that he was Ghanaian, joking that — despite common misconceptions — the continent of Africa is not a country.
Ofori came to showcase the art of traditional Ghanaian drumming, something he said is ever-present in his culture.
“Birthday party? Drumming. Wedding? Drumming. Divorce party? Drumming,” laughed Ofori.
Ofori and his partner played three songs, switching drum varieties after each one. The duo pounded out infectious rhythms that mutated and evolved throughout each song, sometimes resembling a groovier jazz.
After Ofori’s short program, the Deer Valley High School Choral Program took the stage, conducted by instructor Michelle Stark. The youngsters kicked off their three song set with “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” and ended with a Zulu folk song, complete with a borrowed drum. The Wolverines sang well and the LMC Chorale program would be lucky to take them in after graduation.
The guest segment wrapped up with headliner Josh Carter, best known as a backup singer for R&B icon Anthony Hamilton. With the backing of a full band, Carter only played two songs, but they were barnburners, beginning with a rousing cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and finishing with a soaring version of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
The show wrapped up with its Gospel Ensemble, interpolated with performances by husband and wife duo Casey and Erica Pringle and saxophonist Ric Alexander taking the audience to church.
The concert was a sterling example of the talent present both at LMC and the surrounding community, and with admission costing just $5, it’s probably the best deal on campus.