By: Kevin Thomas ~Guest Writer~
The Four Freshmen kicked off the 2016-17 Xavier University Music Series with a memorial and a 9/11 tribute in the Gallagher Student Center (GSC) Theater this past Sunday.
Dr. Polina Bespalko, a music professor and the director of the Series, opened up the stage by introducing The Four Freshmen, a swing and jazz group that has been together since 1948 with rotating members. She then described the upcoming shows and offered a tribute to those who lost their lives in the attacks on Sept.11 2001.
The group hails from Las Vegas, Nev. and consists of four members: Bob Ferreia (Drums, bass vocals) Curtis Calderon (Trumpet, third part vocals) Stein Malvey (Guitar, second part vocals) and Tommy Boynton (bass guitar, lead vocals). The original four freshman group was created in 1948, and since then, new members have filtered.
The Four Freshmen continued that tribute when they came out on stage, bringing with them the Men’s Choir, and singing an a cappella rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” dedicated to the armed forces, first responders, and those who lost their lives as a result of the national tragedy.
Bespalko, who booked the group, hoped that hosting the first event of the Music Series on 9/11 would be perfect so that the series could have a tribute as part of the show.
“I approached that idea (of a tribute) to Freshmen, and they said that’s great,” Bespalko said, “And I thought maybe we should involve students, and Xavier’s Men’s Chorus graciously accepted.”
The involvement of students as part of the Music Series was a new addition and will remain prevalent in Bespalko’s vision for the future of the series.
“We’re not just having a musical journey,” Bespalko said. “The artists are not just showcasing talent, but actually involving students and being able to work with them.”
The Four Freshmen brought the audience on a musical journey with them, ranging from playing slow ballads to swinging renditions of classics, in addition to several new arrangements, both originals from the Freshmen to works by John Coltrane and Duke Ellington.
During the breaks between songs, the Freshmen continued with playful banter amongst themselves and the crowd expressing words of memory and sorrow felt by all on that day, and history of their group.
The Four Freshmen finished the set by taking requests from the crowd, and finishing with “It’s a Blue World” featuring the Men’s Chorus. The group dedicated the song to the original four members of the band that created the group 68 years ago.
However, the crowd was not willing to let them leave without an encore, finally receiving a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
The group is also active in music education, and helps to create music literacy in school systems around the country.
According to the group’s website, “Most important to The Four Freshmen is what it means to be an individual in a group/band, no matter the size and to realize and capitalize on the fact that you are creating a sound with those around you, and how much your own strength of sound can affect the larger picture.”
The series continues next Sunday, Sept. 18, at 2:30 p.m. with Thibaut Garcia, a French classical guitarist. similar events continue throughout the school year. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Box Office.