TR Robertson …. The second season of Moonlight’s successful Club M presentations drew to a close on Saturday with the harmonic sounds of the vocal band, The Four Freshmen. This group has been performing for 69 years throughout the United States and beyond to sold-out audiences and Saturday was no different. Club M is held on the Moonlight Amphitheatre stage in a cabaret atmosphere with those in attendance enjoying a wonderful three course dinner. Moonlight Producing Artistic Director, Steven Glaudini, and Managing Director, Colleen Kollar Smith, said this has been a successful second season with even better things planned for next year. Mr. Glaudini said they are looking into possibly extending next year’s season and perhaps even offering something a little different than the dinner menu for some of the performances. Discussion on next year’s season will soon begin. Next year’s Club M season will be announced during the summer Moonlight musical series.
For Saturday’s final show, audience attendees were treated to a musical selection of numbers that have had a major influence on the sounds of many other singing groups. The Beach Boys once said The Four Freshmen were one of the major influences on their musical style. The group began in 1948 when brothers Ross and Don Barbour, attending Butler University’s Arthur Jordan Conservatory in Indianapolis, Indiana, formed a barbershop quartet, called Hal’s Harmonizers. The group made some changes in members and developed more of a jazz-oriented sound, along with changing their name to The Toppers. Later in 1948, they would hit the road as The Four Freshmen and the rest is music history. In 1950, band leader Stan Kenton heard the quartet and helped them sign with Capitol Records. Recording 75 albums, 70 top selling singles, 6 Grammy nominations, 26 members since 1948 and global performances have led to The Four Freshmen being recognized as one of the most influential recording groups in the music industry.
Club M’s performance of The Four Freshmen featured members Steim Malvey from Ohio on 2nd part vocals and guitar, Tommy Boynton from Los Angeles on 1st part vocals and bass, Jonathan Gaines from Boston and performing in just his 9th show on 3rd part vocals and trumpet and flugelhorn and from Las Vegas, 24 year member Bob Ferreira on 4th part vocals and drums. The show featured a variety of both early Four Freshmen numbers and newer arrangements from more recent albums. The group opened with, ”Day In Day Out”, followed by the more melancholy “In This Whole Wide World”. Drummer Bob Ferreira introduced many of the songs and gave a short history of both the group and the songs for many of the numbers. “Nancy with the Laughing Face” was from the groups 1955 best-selling album. From their “Four Freshmen and 5 Trombones” album they sang “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and “Angel Eyes”. This album has been said to have “set the standard for modern jazz vocal groups”. A memorable song for the audience was “Graduation Day” and interestingly enough, many radio stations would not play the song as one of the lines in the song was said to be too suggestive, calm by today’s standards. The group sang their version, from 2015, of “The Girl from Ipanema” followed by the upbeat “Stompin’ at the Savoy” that had the audience toe tapping. Other songs featured included “Rain”, “My One and Only Love”, “Laura”, “Day by Day” and “Blue World”. Each of the members of the group stood out individually both with their own unique sound and with individual performances with their instruments.
The Four Freshmen harmonic sound is like no other group currently performing and one reason they still have a huge following, including The Four Freshmen Society, some 3,000 strong, which holds conventions around the country. Many of the former Four Freshmen members still attend the convention. Long-time member, Bob Ferreira, said it is important that hey maintain the integrity of the group and keep the original harmony established as their signature. For more information on The Four Freshmen go to http://www.4freshmen.com.
In speaking with a number of those in attendance, the same responses resonate about the Club M experience. Everyone loves the intimate atmosphere, the variety of the performers brought to the stage and the quality of the dinner served. Ben and Joan Costantino, 20 year Moonlight followers, love the concept of Club M. The same was said by Robert and Sharon Bianchi and Ruben and Chris Meza. Dale and Rita Geldert like the atmosphere of Club M and they had with them first time attendees, Jason and Sheri. Sitting at my table was Dave and Janis Cowles. Dave was the Superintendent of Vista Unified from 1998-2006 and a Vista City Councilman from 2010-2014. Both Dave and Janis said they support the Moonlight programs and feel this is a unique opportunity to see a different variety of performers. Also in attendance and a strong supporter of Moonlight programs, was Vista Mayor Judy Ritter.
The dinner menu for this evening consisted of a a field green salad, root beer braised chicken with root beer BBQ sauce, baked mac n’ cheese and braised collared greens followed by butterscotch bread pudding. A selection of wines, beers and complimentary drinks were offered. Each of the Club M cabaret shows featured a different dinner menu.
The Club M experience is unlike any other experience offered in San Diego County. The chance to see professional performers up close in an intimate atmosphere putting on quality shows is unlike anything else offered on stages in this type of setting. Up next for Moonlight will be “Rhythmic Circus” in April, followed by “Abba Mania” in May on the Moonlight Stage. The first summer musical for the season will be “Aida” in June, followed by “The Little Mermaid” in July and then “Sunset Blvd.” and “In the Heights”.