By Jim Ruggirello
April 14, 2010
Long Beach Gazettes Town-News
That was fun.
You couldn’t imagine a livelier, more enjoyable show than the one put on by the Soweto Gospel Choir at the Carpenter on April 1. No foolin’.
The group is from South Africa, obviously, and they brought to the Carpenter stage and a large Thursday night audience not only vibrant singing but incredibly athletic dancing, and a joyous, infectious spirit that filled the hall.
Members of the group took turns introducing the numbers, which ranged from African traditional tunes to “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” in lilting if sometimes indecipherable accents and often ending with a charming “and I thank you.”
Good thing, too, because the printed program was noticeably lacking in the information department. Nothing about the history of the group, nothing about the music except titles and composers, nothing to put this somewhat exotic event into context.
So we were left to experience the performance on its own terms, and the audience loved it. The melodies, even the unfamiliar ones, were irresistibly catchy, and the driving rhythms, reinforced by drums and a small combo, ensured that the energy kept at a high level. There was a spiritual element to the enterprise (this was a gospel choir after all), but it was never heavy-handed, merely uplifting.
If you know Ladysmith Black Mambazo, this was that group on steroids, in Technicolor with Dolby surround sound. The Sowetans included women as well as men, all in colorful (I mean, really colorful) African garb, and the dance moves were a combination of traditional folk dance, hip hop and martial arts. Members of the group took turns in the spotlight, vocally and with dance solos.
The pace never lagged, even in the slower, more reflective pieces, and that was a result of the immense talent, sheer energy and positive spirit radiating from the stage. The Carpenter seems to attract a younger, hipper crowd than the Terrace Theater, or at least it did on this occasion. The audience was riveted, transfixed and transported by what they saw. The response was ecstatic.
This is what the Carpenter does best, the kind of show you would see nowhere else locally and which is sorely needed to enhance our cultural landscape. And according to next season’s brochure, they are going to be adding a little classical music to the usual mix, with recitals by violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Alpin Hong.
Check out the Carpenter if you haven’t already done so. You don’t have to go downtown and parking is only five bucks. They do some really interesting stuff in a lovely, accessible venue. The Web site is www.carpenterarts.org.
And I thank you.