On Thursday, March 4th I went to the performing arts center at Berklee College of Music expecting to hear a concert performed by well trained musicians. The artists I saw that night blew away my expectations. Not only were they excellent at their craft, but they were all charismatic, well rounded entertainers. After every act I found myself feeling sorry for the next performer(s), anticipating that there was no way to top what I had just seen. I had no reason to worry.
The Women Musicians Network’s 13th Annual Concert was directed by Lucy Holstedt and Christiane Karam. The student club was born out of the desire to display and celebrate the talents of the female student body at Berklee College of Music and throughout the community. At one time only fifteen percent of students at Berklee were women. That number has grown to about thirty percent presently, still quite the minority.
The first number, Corendo Atras was written by Tais Alvarenga and Diogo Barallos. Tais sang and danced beautifully in front of her Latin band. The percussion and flamenco guitar were particularly impressive.
Rachel Borovik took the stage second, performing Middle Ground with her band behind her. She showed off a great vocal range and writing skills. Just nineteen years old, Rachel has a bright future ahead of her, considering that she has already recorded live sessions for National Public Radio and performed with famed jazz pianist Bob James.
Sonia Belousova took the stage next with an original piano piece called Humoresque. It was a very intricate little number, played at a furious pace. I was amazed at how fast her fingers flew across the keyboard. Originally from Russia, Sonia has been performing concerts in St. Petersburg and Moscow since the age of seven. Her experience and talent are an absolute.
The next performer had the crowd bopping their heads from the very first note. Nadia Washington has unmatched charisma and joy in her stage presence. It is no surprise that she has already worked with Destiny’s Child and recorded a number of jingles and commercials. She sang a peppy, jazzy song called When You Fall. Somewhere in the middle of the jam, she threw in some bebop and scat that got a standing ovation. My favorite moment was a standoff she had with her drummer. She laid out some melodies and he would mimic them back to her. A cappella can be very hard to pull off; every note must be spot on to make it work. The next groups succeeded without question and made it look effortless. The accapella vocal ensemble was led by Lisa Forkish. Going My Way was also written by Lisa. The song was pretty, almost hypnotic. Their voices were such a gentle blend.
The most unique song I heard that night was Cycle by Hanna Barakat. Hanna is a first generation Lebanese-American. The Middle Eastern flare of her song was entrancing. Her band had great percussion and two very peculiar instruments (Oud and Qanun). The Oud and the Qanun players were authentic and astounding. The mix of music and Hanna’s incredible voice cast a spell over everyone.
Blueberries by Jenna Bollard just plain and simple made everyone smile. Her song was simple, speaking of the unadulterated joy of growing up in the country and picking blueberries on a nice day. She had an excellent band backing up her silky voice. The acoustic guitar gave it that soft, country feel.
How does a classically trained violinist wind up collaborating with a slap bass player? That is the question I was asking myself. I guess anything can happen when you inter-mingle such diversely talented students. Funky Caprice No. 24 was written by Niccolo Paganini and arranged by Julgi Kang. Julgi is on a full scholarship to Berklee due to her skills as a violinist. Her, and slap bass player, Evan Veenstra, took turns playing awesome riffs… so very funky and cool. People were straight up whooping and hollering during their musical madness. They received a standing ovation, and it was well deserved.
Love Myself Instead/ How I Got Over was performed by City Music, a vocal ensemble backed up by a five piece band. Their song was inspirational, talking about getting over a failed relationship and loving one self. These women all have excellent voices and gave a passionate performance.
I hate to use the same description twice, but I have to say that Jill Peacock is another performer that just plain and simple made everyone smile. Her song, Embrace Technology, was so cute and fun. It had a nice humor to it, commenting on all the forms of communication we have these days, but all she wants to do is talk face to face with the one she loves. With an upright bass and an electric guitar behind her, Jill drew us in and had us all snapping our fingers.
Mrs. Danvers ROCKS! This was my favorite act of the night. I wanted to get on stage and leap into the crowd. What Did I Do by Ann Driscoll stole the show. Her song had a frantic energy and rocking beat. Her voice was at one moment soft and sweet, and in the next moment, a howling screech. No doubt about it, this girl was born a rock star. I strongly urge everyone to check out her band, Mrs. Danvers at www.myspace.com/mrsdanverstheband. I just listened to some of their other songs online and I loved them all. They play at venues all around Boston and are gaining a lot of followers. Go see them now, while you still can!
The final act was so much fun. Life Has A Cycle by Karien DeWaal and arranged Karien DeWaal and Ayumi Ueda closed the show with quite a spectacular performance. The Women of the World Choir led by Ayumi Ueda and the instrumental ensemble led by Karien DeWaal performed a rhythmic treat to the ears and eyes. I especially enjoyed the percussion, featuring bongos and African drums. By the end of the song, all the artists were on stage dancing. The crowd was clapping and dancing as well… it was a great closer. Karien DeWaal grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and her music has the influence of her homeland. Her song speaks of the unfair treatment of women in her country and how abuse can create a negative cycle in people’s lives. I spoke to her briefly after the show and she asked me to please mention a cause that is close to her heart. Karien is an advocate for the movement to end child marriage and female genital mutilation. To help in this effort, please visit www.tostan.org.
Also, The Women of the World Choir will be performing on March 10th at The Berklee Performance Center. They have my ringing endorsement. GO SEE THEM! They put on a great show.
In closing, I was thoroughly impressed. Thank you so much to everyone involved for having me. I had a great time. I am certainly coming back next year. A fan…