Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Allouez Village Band displays annual extra sheen

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It happens every year with the Allouez Village Band. Added zip is put into its Christmas concert.

This year, two singers who are active on the area performance scene in a variety of ventures sang extensively throughout the program titled, “Colors, Comedy & Christmas Classics.”

The “Colors” had to do with the musical palette that was performed in Ralph Holter Auditorium of Green Bay West High School.

The “Comedy” was an infusion of jokes along the line of this: Santa really has 10 reindeer – eight and Rudolph and another one. Oh? Which is the other one? Olive – as in the line, “Olive, the other reindeer, used to call him names.” Da-da-dump. (Olive – all of – get it?)

“Christmas Classics” was the array of familiar songs and tunes covered in the program – 27, not counting all sorts of bell references in “Ukrainian Bell Carol.”

Director Mike Ajango handled the main duties – being a jolly gent and playing humor off of announcer Mary Eisenreich and her inviting segment presentations while conducting selections with the vocalists. Associate director Paul Oleksy conducted the nearly 80-member band in three instrumental pieces, each filled with robust energy; the band has a full, vigorous feel to it.

Ajango also is active in musical theater. Through that experience, Ajango drew on his guest soloists, Emily Terrell Paulsen and Ben Cahall – she a strong soprano and he a firm baritone. A few notes: Among her music theater roles, Paulsen played Eva Peron in “Evita” of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” fame. Along with teaching voice privately, she performs in plays and a vista of musical theater and concert ventures. She supplies soaring vocalese in Project Pink, a big Pink Floyd-inspired showcase that’s returning March 23 and 24 to the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay. Paulsen sometimes sings with her husband, Kent Paulsen, who directs the Knights on Broadway show troupe of St. Norbert College, of which Cahall is a former member. Among Cahall’s music theater roles, he played Judas in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He is a regular with Daddy D Productions show troupe of Green Bay and will be appearing Friday, Dec. 22, in “Daddy D’s Christmas” at the Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center.

Because of their experience, Paulsen and Cahall fit into music in the program that called for added skill. Sample: In the first Christmas medley, as Paulsen sang “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” Cahall knitted in “Pine Cones and Holly Berries.” Many other songs included harmonies.

The showcase number of the evening was “All is Calm,” with Paulsen lustrous as she sang with a bluesy warmth in the variation on “Silent Night.”

The concert included an audience sing-along, December birthdays recognition, a “hi” to groups in the audience, more jokes, goofy Santa hats and a general festive aura.

And the band played very nicely in its 37th such program in a remarkable history: School teacher (Robert Seering) forms a band whose camaraderie catches hold and grows and grows so much that people look forward to its monthly free concerts because they’re so entertaining and the playing is so good.  

***

Program

Directed by Mike Ajango and Paul Oleksy*

Part I

“Christmas on Broadway” (“God Bless Us Everyone,” “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas,” “March of the Toys,” “My Favorite Things” “Pine Cones and Holly Berries,” “Toyland,” “We Need a Little Christmas”) – various composers, arranged by John Higgins

Featuring Emily Paulsen and Ben Cahall

“The Colours of Christmas” – John Rutter, arranged by Paul Noble

Featuring Emily Paulsen and Ben Cahall

“Midnight Sleigh Ride” – Sergei Prokofiev, arranged by Tom Wallace

*“Grown-Up Christmas List” – David Foster and Linda Thompson-Jenner, arranged by Michael Brown

Featuring Ben Cahall

“Santa’s Journey (Bringing ‘Joy to the World’)” – Roy W. Kaighin

Part II

“Irving Berlin’s Christmas” (“Happy Holiday,” “Snow,” “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm,” “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “White Christmas”) – Irving Berlin, arranged by Michael Brown

Featuring Emily Paulsen and Ben Cahall

*“A Christmas Celebration” (“March of the Kings,” “Greensleeves,” “I Saw Three Ships,” “Lo, How a Rose,” “Bring a Torch”) – Kenny Bierschenk

“I Wish You Christmas” – John Rutter, arranged by Paul Noble

Featuring Emily Paulsen and Ben Cahall

*“Ukrainian Bell Carol” – various sources, arranged by Richard Saucedo

“All is Calm” traditional source, arranged by Robert W. Smith

Featuring Emily Paulsen

“Christmas Finale” (“Joy to the World,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “O Come All Ye Faithful”) – various composers, arranged by Paul Jennings

Audience sing-along with Emily Paulsen and Ben Cahall

***

Band

Director – Mike Ajango; associate conductor – Paul Oleksy; manager – Brent Hussin; announcer – Mary Eisenreich; flutes – Alysha Brooks, Becky Fronek, Chris Kelley, Kathy Lieburn, Shirley Paul, Lori Schilke; oboe – Susan Arias; bassoon – Joanna Busch, Liz Rehberg, Mary Rehberg; clarinet – Nancy Barthel, Marge Boulanger, Mary Eisenreich, Erica Errer, Linda Goerl, Sharon Janke, Orville Konop, Carol Osgood, Wendy Smetana, Barbara Varney, Wolfi Vetter, Steve Waugus; alto clarinet – Mark Schroeder; bass clarinet – Diane Martin, Danielle Wheeler; alto sax – Kellie Beno, Marcie Beshears-Schoen, Gary Hassel, Sharon Hassel, Cindy Swain; tenor sax – Dale Pearson, Kimberly Smithson; baritone sax – Chuck Larsheid; trumpet – Tim Bader, Bob Burgdorff, Gene Burmeister, Bob Dietz, Jim Eckerle, Margaret Eckerle, Connie Fellman, Brent Hussin, Talia La Count; French horn – Rachel Emrick, Mary Halloin, Paul Hying, Mary Killian, Bill Klumb, Jessica Morin, Pat Scasny, Jody Strnad, Sara Wanek; trombone – Joe Cataldo, Jerry Chenot, Linda Kelley, Erin Mader, Dick Nocenti, Becky Paul, Ken Petersen, Tom Schlender, Bob Wampler, Joe Wingerter; baritone – Janet Ajango, Bruce Deadman, John Siemering, Jay Snow; valve trombone – Hank Wallace; tuba – Michael Draney, Weston Gussert, Russ Nau, Ed Wacek, Doug Youra; bass trombone – Jerry Chenot; bass – Jerry Kruse; percussion – Thomas Killian, Ted Ludolph, Paul Oleksy, Lynn Urquhart, Joe Vetter, Carmen Youra

***

NEXT: “Showstoppers, Signatures and Swing,” Feb. 19, Meyer Theatre.

THE VENUE: Ralph Holter Auditorium in Green Bay West High School for decades served as Green Bay’s main performance hall. Its overall look is of the Beaux Arts architectural style. The majestic two-level, 1,500-seat hall features two massive Corinthian columns that bracket the proscenium stage, with wood-like beams set in the high ceiling and classical ornamentation in the balcony line, door frames and walls. Doors leading from the lobby to the hall echo those of a medieval castle. The acoustics are such that sounds can easily carry throughout the hall without the assistance of microphone. The history the hall and that of Brown County Civic Music Association goes hand-in-hand to 1927. The two have been responsible for a whole lot of culture.

THE PERSON: Ralph Holter spoke softly and carried a big impact. He was conductor of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, which performed regularly in the hall that bears his name. Holter taught music at Green Bay West High School, in which the hall is located. He played violin and enjoyed playing in quartets with his friends. He taught violin, and some of his students remember him warmly for his guidance. A pride and joy of Holter was the Dickens Village display of Victorian-era ceramics that he put up in his home. 

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My books, “Three Miles Past Lost and in the Pickers,” “Nickolaus and Olive – a naïve opera (in words)” and the award-winning “Real, Honest Sailing with a Great Lakes Captain,” are available online and in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum, Bosse’s and The Reader’s Loft.

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