Here to Stay:
The Gershwin Experience

Friday, 10 August 2012 at 8pm • The Orpheum Theatre

Performers Kevin Cole, Sylvia McNair, Ryan VanDenBoom & The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

The gala opening concert that kicked off MusicFest Vancouver on Friday night was entitled Here to Stay: The Gershwin Experience. This concert was aptly named. There really is nothing comparable to personal experience in bringing the legacy of great composers to life. This is where Kevin Cole, piano virtuoso extraordinaire comes in. This show was especially enhanced as much by his personal anecdotes and memorable experiences with Gershwin legends as it was by his stylistic excellence. He does not just cover Gershwin’s considerable oeuvre but brings it to life as if Gershwin was in the room and proves that his legacy is indeed here to stay.

Adding considerably to the rich talents of Kevin Cole’s singing and piano, was the hauntingly beautiful vocal accompaniment of the incomparable Sylvia McNair. Then there was Ryan VanDenBoom, the tap-dancing troubadour whose magical feet were reminiscent of Gene Kelly.

Rounding out the musical component of the evening was the astoundingly vibrant orchestral performance of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. The VSO are always a delight, but especially so on this gala opening night tribute to Gershwin.

The first set warmed the crowd up with Strike up the Band, The Man I Love, ‘S Wonderful and But Not For Me. Then in this set’s incredible finale, Gershwin’s most famous Rhapsody in Blue drenched the audience with aural delight.

This set was made considerably more personal and experiential by Kevin Cole’s anecdotes and a photographic display from the Gershwin archives projected simultaneously onto two large screens on either side of the Orpheum Theatre. Kevin Cole really knows how to make an audience feel at home with this astounding music. His nimble fingers were also shown in close up on these screens throughout the performance.

The orchestral feel of the second set blasted off to a start with the satiric Of Thee followed by Slap that Bass, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off and Love is Here to Stay.

Finally, Sylvia McNair performed a spine-tingling rendition of Summertime, Ryan VanDenBoom punched out the plosive I Got Rhythm, and then to close the evening off Kevin Cole accompanied the VSO in a rousing version of what Gershwin called an “orgy in rhythm” – namely, Allegro Agitato, from Concerto in F.

Here to Stay: The Gershwin Experience was truly a memorable experience, and a great kick-off to this year’s MusicFest.

© 2012 Roger Wayne Eberle