Music on the Divide review

Street Corner Renaissance brings the best of Doo-Wop to the Divide

By Betsy Schwarzentraub

Special to The Gazette

Award-winning musicians Street Corner Renaissance brought out the best of vocal-based rhythm and blues on Sunday, Nov. 15. They took Divide residents back in time to some of the best of Doo-wop in their Music On The Divide concert at the Georgetown I.O.O.F. Hall.

This talented a capella ensemble showed both savvy and soul. Each one of the five performers in this L.A.-based band held his own as lead singer with an equally strong bass and three middle voices doing background harmony – the famous sh-boom, shang-alang, or shoop-shoo-op that shaped many of our teenage musical lives. The performers were equally adept at sweet love song harmonies that spread out to end on high notes, and top-of-the-charts tunes with an infectious, driving beat.

The band sang the quintessential Doo-wop musical style. From the outset they got the audience clapping to keep time on the offbeat, and periodically added their own clap counter-rhythms, as in “I Want a Love” and “Life Could Be a Dream / Sh-Boom.” Their selections showed Doo-wop’s signature Top and Bottom format, where a lead singer and bass singer counter each other, with three voices singing the mid-range background syllables. The effect was mesmerizing. Multiple listeners couldn’t keep from singing along.

An evolution of jazz and blues, Doo-wop influenced major Rock and Roll groups of the 1960s, and was a precursor to many of the African-American musical styles heard today. One concert example was “Take It Easy,” mixing country with Rock and Roll. Another was the pop mix “On the Roof,” which brought the audience to their feet, clapping and stomping.

Citing prominent television shows of the 1950s, they said, “Come back with us to the days of yesteryear.” Then love songs followed one after another, from “This Magic Moment,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” and “O What a Night;” to “Earth Angel,” “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” and “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons.”

A spirited rendition of the love-gone-wrong tune “Frankie and Johnny” marked a transition to lively blockbuster melodies that got the entire crowd clapping and singing along. “Meet Me on the Corner” recalled Doo-wop’s early days, when singers gathered on street corners and in subways to sing vocal group harmony. “Rockin’ Robin,” “It’s Another Saturday Night,” and “Charlie Brown” prompted clapping and cheering. “On the Roof” brought full-out harmony. “Can I Come Over Tonight” featured voice dueling between the lead and bass sings, with the audience cheering for their favorite – only to have the background singers vote themselves the winners.

Last but not least, the ensemble sang “Change’s Gonna Come,” first sung by Sam Cooke in 1964, which became an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement. In Georgetown, the singers sang it “as a prayer for the victims of Paris, France. This is our prayer for them and for us.”

Pressed for an encore by the now-boisterous audience, Street Corner Renaissance ended with “It’s All Right” by American soul and R&B singer-songwriter Curtis Mayfield. Not restraining it to song alone, two of the singers picked partners from the audience to dance with them while they sang.

Next month, Music on the Divide will showcase the River City Chorale with a special Christmas concert on Dec. 13 at 3:00 p.m. in the Georgetown Oddfellows Hall. For more information, go to www.MusicOnTheDivide.org.

 

St Corner Renaissance 1Street Corner Renaissance members Charlie “Sonny” Banks, Kwame Alexander, Torrence Brannon Reese, Maurice Kitchen, and Anthony Snead brought the best of Doo-wop music on Nov. 15 in Georgetown. Photo by Debbie Lind.