Love and marriage were in the air when Daniel Rodriguez and Marla Kavanaugh opened the El Dorado Community Concert season in the Middle School Auditorium on Sept. 18. The couple, tenor and soprano, were husband and wife, and they have created an exciting concert from their love affair.
Lionell Butts, president of the El Dorado Community Concert Association (ECCA), announced a new category of patrons, corporate underwriters for the concert, which included BG Prducts, Inc.; Albert Hogoboom Oil Field Trucking; and HollyFrontier Refinery.
Butts also noted, as special guests of the ECCA, seven first responders in Butler County and El Dorado from the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service. Attending (in uniform) were Dom Domebo and Jeremy Goerzen from the EMS and Max Brown, Shane McCoy, Curtis Pollard, Quentin Sage and Jack Zimmerman from the Fire Department. Personnel from the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department were also invited but no one could attend.
Rodriguez opened the concert with “The Impossible Dream” from The Man From La Mancha. It was the perfect vehicle to demonstrate his wide vocal range and his ability to interpret a song dramatically as well as musically.
He then introduced the theme of the concert, “Boy Meets Girl.” It was a Brooklyn boy meeting a Kiwi girl in New Zealand, Marla Kavanaugh. Appropriately, he sang “Stranger in Paradise,” from Kismet, and it showed off his clear and powerful tenor.
When Kavanaugh joined him on stage, they found one of the microphones was not working. Rodriguez covered with some banter while David Ellis, sound technician, tried to repair the problem. They decided to just use one microphone for their next number. Sharing it added to the romantic moment created by the “Balcony Scene” from “West Side Story,” better known as “Tonight.” Kavanaugh began and Rodriguez joined her in a wonderful blend of beautiful voices. They also included lines from the musical, showing a command of dramatic interplay.
After a sound check of the repaired microphone, Rodriguez changed the pace with a solo. “On the Street Where You Live,” from “My Fair Lady.” It was not the usual version, but a jazz interpretation, featuring the talents of Jesse Lynch on the piano, Joe Michaels on bass and Noel Brennan on drums. Rodriguez has a good voice for musical comedy, and the piano chorus punctuated the unusual presentation.
In the next number, it was Kavanaugh’s turn to show off her beautiful voice. She quipped that Rodriguez, singing into her left ear when they shared the microphone, had left her slightly deaf, but it did not spoil her performance of “If I Loved You,” from Carousel. She has the dramatic talent to bring the song to a powerful climax. Since it was designed as a duet in the show, Rodriguez returned to the stage halfway through, and they brought the song to a moving climax with their masterful blend of voices.
Page 2 of 3 - Kavanaugh presented a lovely version of “My Lord and Master,” from “The King and I.” In it, she showed she didn’t really need amplification. Here is a voice that can fill any hall to overflowing and cause the rafters to vibrate. After the concert, a man was heard asking how “such a big voice could come from such a tiny singer.” She continued with “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from “Phantom of the Opera.” It was, she said, particularly personal to her because Rodriguez had kept hiring her to join him in various venues. Those concert dates and Rodriguez’s presence had helped her get through the sorrow of losing someone who was quite close to her.
Kavanaugh and Rodriguez joined voices in the next number, “All I Ask of You,” from “Phantom of the Opera.” It cannot be emphasized too much how wonderfully their voices blend in duets.
Rodriguez gained national recognition after the infamous attack on America on 9/11. He was a New York policeman at the time and was working in the area when the twin towers collapsed. He lost many good friends and was asked to sing at the funerals and memorials for the people who had been lost. His experience has led him to accentuate and celebrate the importance of first responders to any dire event in our society, and especially the first responders who represented our police force, fireman, and emergency medical technicians. He reminisced about valor he had witnessed in the face of terrible events and the ongoing fight on terrorism.
He used those remarks to lead into his next song, “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. We have heard Douglas Webster (in 2001) and Franc D’Ambrosio (in 2004) sing the same song in our concert series. They were quite excellent in their presentations, but Rodriguez, perhaps because of his personal experience, has given us the supremely moving experience embedded in the song.
Rodriguez closed the first half of the concert with “Be My Love.” He said Mario Lanza, a tenor who had died at the age of 28, had been his model. Indeed, Lanza would have approved of Rodriguez’s work. Also, he would have approved of the interpretation of this song and the fine accompaniment of the trio.
Act Two began with the discovery by the audience that Lynch, the pianist, was working under a handicap; the pedals on the piano, which are held in place by a wedge, had fallen off during the second number in the first act. Despite the difficulty this caused him, the trio opened the act with “When I Fall in Love,” an exquisite jazz rendition of the number.
Page 3 of 3 - Their quiet version of the standard love song was reinforced by Kavanaugh’s interpretation of “Summertime,” from “Porgy and Bess.” Her beautiful voice was complemented by Lynch’s interludes on the piano.
“One Hand, One Heart” became a duet with Rodriguez leading the way, first quietly and then building to a magnificent climax. Rodriguez followed this with a Spanish song, “Jurame” which translates to “Swear to Me.”
Traveling with the couple is their charming daughter, Alexandra – “Lexie.” At each concert, they sing a lullaby to her. Rodriguez sang the first and was rewarded by Lexie running into his arms from stage left and receiving hugs and kisses. Kavanaugh followed with a New Zealand lullaby, “Hine E Hine.” Her a capella arrangement and her compelling voice were impressive and moving.
They again joined voices to continue the “Boy Meets Girl” theme of love and marriage. “And This Is My Beloved” again combined the perfect blend of their voices and enunciation of words with an excellent sense of dramatic delivery, complete with a kiss at the end.
“Conte Partiro” translates to “Time to Say Goodbye.” It was an appropriate number to bring the concert to an end and a confirmation of their talent. A standing ovation led to an encore from Rodriguez. There are usually small problems in staging a concert, but this concert set a minor record in the number of problems. The artists, traveling through New Orleans from Biloxi, Miss., suffered a break-down. Their van, which had carried them through 107 previous concert dates, would no longer work. They bought a new van in Louisiana and hitched their U-Haul trailer to it for a marathon drive to El Dorado, arriving at 5:35 p.m. With just an hour and a half to do a sound check in the auditorium and dress for the concert, they were nearly exhausted. Still, they took it in their stride when the microphone malfunctioned and the pedals fell off the piano during the second number.
The artists weren’t the only people having problems. The printer in Nashville, Tenn., had a family emergency in the previous week which interfered with printing programs for the concert. He finally got them done and sent them by UPS overnight delivery. They arrived at 11:35 a.m. on Tuesday, less than eight hours before the concert. Earlier in the month, we discovered that Ron Nossaman, the piano technician who had tuned the piano for the past 18 years, had been diagnosed with cancer and could no longer do his superb job for ECCA. Fortunately, he recommended a good tuner, Joe Wisner, to bring the piano up to pitch.
David Ellis handled the sound for the concert. ECCA Board of Directors members filled at the other jobs necessary in staging a concert. Lionell Butts did the lights. Opening the front doors for the arriving audience were Phil Johnson and ralph Fairman, while Dale Dawson worked at the northeast door. Checking membership cards and distributing programs were Mary Ellen Baker, Lois Fairman, Peggy Krause and Shirley Patton. Steve Love ushered the first responders to their reserved seats. Shirley Longfellow and Beverly Love sold new memberships. Shiela Johnson did the advanced publicity and took production pictures during the performance. The next concert will feature Yana Reznik, a classical pianist who performs with charm, elegance, and an inspirational message. It will be held at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 11. People who would like information on membership should call Shiela Johnson at 321-9601 or Shirley Longfellow at 321-6742.