Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Cool YuleArtist Series Concerts of Sarasota
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of John Ringling's Circus Nutcracker

June Garber
Photo by Bill Beard
The second performance of Cool Yule with jazz vocalist June Garber seemed to be under a dark seasonal cloud, indoors at least, as the weather outside was a warm, sunny 83 degrees. The audience was kept in the Ringling Museum visitors lobby for quite a while ,while someone came through twice and promised to tell us what was going on as soon as she could. We were all wondering and I for one believed that the performance was going to be canceled. It was not. The disaster involved Ms. Garber's arrangement book and charts, gone missing, supposedly from the Historic Asolo Theater.

Once the show got under way about 20 minutes late, the glitch was explained and the audience was asked to bear with the musicians and Ms. Garber as they strayed from the set list. Ms. Garber was in a flowing leopard-print outfit that no one would likely have described as understated, and without shoes, which we later learned were with the missing music. Opening with "Jingle Bells," which was scheduled for a second half closer, they continued with "Winter Wonderland." Joe Delaney at the piano snuck in a few bars of "Walking My Baby Back Home" for those of us with keen ears. He was inventive like that all afternoon.

Other numbers scheduled for the first half and performed included "When October Goes," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" (which Ms. Garber attempted to turn into a sing along with mixed results as her key choice was too low for most of the audience), and a tribute to Lambert, Hendricks (recently deceased) & Ross ("Bye Bye Blues" and "Cloudburst"). Ms. Garber is one of those singers with a low throaty voice, which can be very effective giving individuality to a well known song. Because of the missing music, she did not appear to be completely at ease on the stage.

When the audience returned for the second half of the show, we were informed that the missing materials had materialized. Highlights of the set included "I'll Be Home for Christmas" along with a back story of how the song came to be, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," "Silver Bells" by the Sextet from Choral Artists of Sarasota, "Frosty the Snowman" (arrangement after Ella Fitzgerald) by Miss Garber and the Sextet, "It Was a Very Good Year," and "Over the Rainbow."

All through the second half Ms. Garber seemed to struggle to find her way through verses and/or the beginnings of slower songs pitch wise, although once into them, her endings were often effective.

Accompanying were the aforementioned Joe Delaney on piano, Brandon Robertson, who counted off almost all the numbers, suggesting that he was in charge, on bass and Rick Costa on drums. I've already credited Mr. Delaney for being inventive. and Mr. Robertson and Mr. Costa were finely professional in short solos.

The sextet was made up of Hannah Boyd, Amy Jo Connours, Ian Barnes, Rob Davis, Jamal Sankoki and Ben Plocher. "Silver Bells" was arranged to show off fine choral singing, and "Frosty" required an entirely different set of vocal skills. These six showed what a fine musician Joseph Holt, leader of Choral Artists of Sarasota, is, just in case anyone in the area was in doubt.

Cool Yule turned out to be a mixed Christmas stocking, for sure some lumps of coal, but also some fine performances of songs we have heard many times over.

Cool Yule, December 16-17, 2017, by Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota at the Historic Asolo Theater, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida. Box Office 941-306-1201. For more information, please visit