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Sarasota Orchestra boogies into first pops concert of the year

The Doo Wop Project will accompany the Sarasota Orchestra for its first pops concert of the year.

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Back in the late 1950s, small groups of black singers would huddle up on street corners and sing. 

Sing — that’s all they’d do. These ad hoc ensembles didn’t have musical instruments, so they’d send their voices through the still of the night without accompaniment. Tight vocal harmonies. Switchback rhythm changes. And slyly suggestive lyrics punctuated by choruses of nonsense words. Even the name of their infectious, finger-popping song style sounded like baby talk.


By the early 1960s, white performers (and audiences) were catching doo-wop fever. After this brief flash of popularity, the ubiquitous guitar took center stage in 1960s rock 'n' roll. But it never drowned out the doo-wop sound. Frank Zappa himself gave the genre a nod with his “Cruising with Ruben & the Jets” in 1968. Musical talents as diverse as Michael Jackson, Brian Wilson and Graham Nash shared Zappa’s respect. And there are doo-wop fans outside the world of popular music.

Jack Everly is one of them. He’s the conductor of the Indianapolis and Baltimore Symphony orchestras, Naples Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. He’s always had a soft spot for this all-American, a capella art form. And in 2011, he decided to share the love.

After gathering the vocal talents of “Jersey Boys,” Everly launched The Doo Wop Project, an original revue of doo-wop classics. The revue is still going strong—and it’s hitting the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall stage Jan. 19-20 in the Sarasota Orchestra’s first pop concert of the season. Everly will conduct The Doo Wop Project’s current lineup of Charl Brown, Dwayne Cooper, Russell Fischer, Dominic Scaglione Jr. and Matthew Scott.

The concert will explore doo-wop’s evolution, starting with early hits like Frankie Valli’s “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and “Sherry,” and then moving on to such later classics like Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” and Michael Jackson’s, “The Way You Make Me Feel.” There’s even an inventive doo-wop arrangement of Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning.”

“We’ll light a candle to the doo-wop classics,” promises Siobhan Rodriguez, Sarasota Orchestra’s publicity manager. “We don’t want to say ‘oldies.’ This music never gets old!”



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