Tuesday, June 06, 2000

VoiceBox effortlessly mixes musical genres

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There were few places you could have gone on Sunday evening to hear traditional Jewish folk music, Sinead O'Connor, Billie Holiday, and even a little Bruce Springsteen.

        For such a diverse selection, you would have had to browse the aisles of a large record store.

        Or better yet, you could have gone to the Rockdale Temple, where the a capella ensemble VoiceBox sang arrangements by these artists, among others, in a performance called “Shalom Aleichem,” Hebrew for “Peace Be Upon You.”

        The eight-member ensemble, formed in 1994, combined rock and show-tune selections from its second CD, No Net, with arrangements of Jewish music — both sacred and secular — for an intimate and captivating performance.

        Canadian composer Healy Willan's piece “Rise Up, My Love,” with its soaring harmonies, was a fitting opener. The song, which incorporates text from Song of Solomon was followed by a swinging rendition of Van Morrison's “Moondance” and “My Romance” by Rodgers and Hart.

        But it was VoiceBox member Thom Mariner's arrangements of “Shalom Aleichem,” and the Yugoslavian folk song “Ocho Kandelikas” that were the creative standouts of the evening.

        The arrangements showcased the octet's talents — both individually and collectively — and his unique interpretations enhanced the original versions of the songs.

        Jodi Robinson's solo in “Ridin' the Rails” was soulful, and Sinead O'Connor's “In This Heart,” featuring soprano Maureen Boylan, was delivered with the same honest and simple passion as when the Irish songstress herself sings it.

        There were only a few low points in the program.

        James Taylor's “Lonesome Road” — meant to be hymn-like —was performed so slow it sounded more like a dirge.

        And Mr. Mariner's arrangement of Crosby, Stills, and Nash's “Guinnevere” seemed overly textured and heavy, understating the true beauty of the classic, which is in its simplicity, letting the lyric, “We shall be free” rise up and away from the music.

        Ironically, the only other disappointment was the beautiful weather that may have kept many from attending the concert given by one of the area's best — and original — treasures.


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