TENOR TRIO DELIGHTS WHITING AUDIENCE
By Laurence E. MacDonald
Many male singing groups have formed in the wake of the success of the operatic trio famously known as the Three Tenors. Among the most entertaining is the group called Three Mo’ Tenors, which made a highly enjoyable first appearance in Flint Sunday night as part of The Whiting’s Spotlight Series.
This African-American singing group proved to be just as vocally adept as the original trio. In an opening set of opera songs, the threesome even paid tribute to their namesake with a vocally exciting version of Verdi’s “La donna e mobile.” The three then took turns singing operatic songs by Puccini, Donizetti and Barber, on all demonstrating richly resonant voices and great stage presence.
From this point on, the group proved to be wonderfully versatile, with an eclectic repertoire of music that ranged from Broadway musicals to jazz classics, blues songs and even a few hip-hop numbers. Especially memorable was the performance by James N. Berger and Victor Robertson of “Bring Him Home,” from “Les Miserables.” In this song, as elsewhere, the singers achieved a level of intensity that captivated the audience.
Another highlight was a lyrical performance of “Make Them Hear You,” from “Ragtime,” in which Berger and Robertson were joined by the third member of the trio, Duane A. Moody.
The closing portion of the program was devoted to a lively rendition of the Cab Calloway classic “Minnie the Moocher.” With Berger ingeniously channeling the essence of Calloway, the audience was drawn into the performance with a delightful assortment of scat-style vocal phrases. The result was musically entertaining and visually riotous as the three cavorted around the stage in colorful zoot suits that resembled the one worn by Calloway himself.
The second half of the performance was even more eclectic, with songs ranging from blues to soul and gospel. The Ray Charles songs “Hit the Road, Jack” and “Georgia on My Mind” were vocally impressive, as was the lilting rendition of “My Girl,” sung and danced in the style of Smokey Robinson and the Temptations.
Throughout the performance, the singers moved about the stage in carefully choreographed movements, with Moody particularly impressive in a gospel medley in which his every gesture conjured up the essence of some of the great gospel singers of the past century.
A hip-hop medley, along with several rhythm and blues songs, may have been somewhat less entertaining to some audience members, but the sheer enthusiasm and exuberance of the trio’s performance transcended any serious objections.
With instrumental accompaniments capably played by a quartet that included piano, synthesizer, guitar and percussion, the program was a delight from start to finish.
It was obvious from the enthusiastic audience reaction that this was no ordinary group of singers, but rather a highly talented and accomplished trio of performers. We hope that Berger, Moody and Robertson, along with another set of singers that alternates with them during their current tour due to a strenuous performance schedule, will achieve the renown they richly deserve.