Polymnia pays tribute to Elvis


Memorial Hall in Melrose was “All Shook Up” last Saturday night as the Polymnia Choral Society presented its “Tribute to Elvis, the King of Rock.”

Polymnia and the King share a historical timeline.

Polymnia was founded in Wakefield in 1953, the year Elvis Presley recorded his first demo at Sun Studio in Memphis. In 1956, the year that Polymnia moved its concerts to Memorial Hall in Melrose, “Heartbreak Hotel” was released, becoming Elvis’s first big hit.

Saturday’s concert featured 20 classic Elvis tunes, from the hard rocking “Return to Sender” and “Burning Love” to the mellow gospel of “Peace in the Valley” and “I Believe.”

Saturday’s show opened with the dramatic theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” before Musical Director and Conductor Murray Kidd burst on stage in full Elvis regalia. He then launched into a rousing solo of “C.C. Rider.” Kidd’s self-effacing comments notwithstanding, his impression of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was quite good.

Kidd/Elvis then stepped into his normal role as conductor, leading the full chorus in a performance of “Burning Love.” They then slowed things down with “Are You Lonesome Tonight” before picking up the pace again with a lively version of “Return to Sender.”

Polymnia then paid tribute to Elvis’s gospel roots, singing “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and “Peace in the Valley.” They closed the first half of the show with “You’ll Never Walk Alone”/”Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”

After a brief intermission, the Chorus opened the second half of the show with a rendition of “C’mon Everybody.”
The next tune featured Wakefield Memorial High School sophomore Jillian Casa performing Sara Bareilles “Love Song.” Jillian was one of the “Spotlight on High School Talent” winners. She sings in the WMHS all female a cappella group “She Major.”

Returning to Elvis, the chorus glided into a performance of “Slow Dancing for Two” followed by “A Little Less Conversation.”

Next was another Spotlight on High School Talent winner, Lauren Abramson of Melrose performing her solo of George and Ira Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

The full chorus then picked up the pace with a medley of Elvis’s “Jailhouse Rock” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

Carl Perkins composition “Blue Suede Shoes” was next followed by “Rubberneckin’.”

The chorus closed out the evening in style with a grand finale medley of “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up.”

The vocal concert was enhanced by some fine instrumental musicians. Dorothy Travis accompanied on piano and keyboards. The band featured Larry Pyatt and Richard Given on trumpet, Jeri Sykes and Heather Cole on woodwinds, Scotty Johnson on guitar, Alexei Doohovskoy on Trombone, Chick Gabriel on Bass and Jessie Stiglich on percussion.

Preparation for Saturday’s concert involved about two and a half months of weekly rehearsals, with several dress rehearsals in the week before the performance, according to longtime member Eileen Worthley of Wakefield. “We began rehearsals for this concert immediately after the previous concert was over in mid-March,” she added.

The Polymnia Choral Society draws many members from the Malden-Melrose-Wakefield area and also has singers from Stoneham, Woburn, Saugus and as far away as Newburyport and Amesbury. Their concerts present a broad spectrum of choral music, from sacred hymns to popular show tunes, and from Johan Sebastian Bach to P.D.Q. Bach.

The name “Polymnia” means “many songs,” after the Greek muse of poetry and music.

[This review originally appeared in the June 5, 2018 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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