By HOLLY JOHNSON //
No casts of thousands. No story line. No theatrics. Just beautiful music-- pop, mainstream, classical and even some funny stuff.
Rick Lewis was looking for something special for Christmas. The kind of music that gives you a holiday tingle. Elegant, nostalgic, heart-warming and fun. Pristinely presented. So he had this idea. He called it BelloVoci.
Flash back: Lewis, creator of musical revues like “The Taffetas,” voice teacher and resident musical director/conductor at Portland Center Stage, was commissioned to compose a small musical for a private group earlier this year.
“I thought there was something nice about using three sexy guys with great voices. I thought, ‘I am going to do it that way,’” Lewis said.
Then the idea got bigger. He couldn’t let go of it. “I never really had the right combination of guys until this summer." He lost one singer who moved to California, and other things didn’t work out. Then, fate and good fortune lined up three wonderful vocalists, Matt Hayward, Tim Suenkel and Norman Wilson. “The universe just said, ‘Here you go.’”
BelloVoci, a male trio performing familiar and unusual holiday arrangements in three-part harmony is a simple but sturdy idea. No casts of thousands. No story line. No theatrics. Just beautiful music -- pop, mainstream, classical and even some funny stuff -- according to Lewis, who promises exquisite arrangements as well. “It’s sort of Portand’s Il Divo."
Lewis took the idea to the accomplished vocalist Susannah Mars in search of a venue, and she connected him with Artists Repertory Theatre, for which she curates an Artists Rep in Concert series.
The performances will be held Dec. 16-20, Wed. through Sat. at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., at the Portland Piano Company, 711 SW 14th Ave., one block from Artists Rep.
Some of the tunes being offered? Lewis doesn’t want to give all of them away, but here’s a sampling: “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, “O Little Town of Clackamas” (Lewis’ version of ‘O Little Town of Hackensack” by PDQ Bach) and “The Chanukah Song—We Are Lights,” by Stephen Schwartz. There’s also “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” (a bit of a mystery there).
Norman Wilson, a popular performer with Broadway Rose and recently returned from New York, calls the project challenging.
“Rick is a perfectionist. He is putting us through our paces to get our sound and blend just right. But I love that. I love that process of growing as a group. The material we’re singing is beautiful. If nothing else, it will be a nice escape from the madness of the holidays,” Wilson said.
Anything else down the pike? “We’re already discussing ideas for Valentines arrangements,” Wilson added. “We’d like to make BelloVoci an ongoing thing.”
For tickets and further information, visit Artists Repertory Theater. Bring gifts to wrap: As this production's holiday gift to audiences, interns will wrap up two present per patron and have them ready to take home by the end of the show.