On Saturday, January 28, Roanoke College’s Olin Theater hosted an ambitious concert that showcased the musical talents of both students and professionals. Though not quite a full house, many seats were filled with proceeds expected to benefit the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life.
After opening remarks by Director Jeff Sandborg, the concert, titled “Off-Broadway, On Campus,” proceeded with a few students singing Broadway tunes of their own choice, which were performed to the accompaniment of piano. There was a variety among musical numbers. Classic tunes from South Pacific and Grease led into the more contemporary tunes of La La Land and Finding Neverland, the latter of which was sung in duet. After the duet, an all-women choir from Roanoke College entered the stage, filling all three rows of the risers. From there, the ensemble sang medleys compiling songs from two familiar musicals – Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera.
After that, the Oriana Singers took the stage to sing their own tunes with a lighter tone. Singing the pompous “C’est Moi” of Camelot fame and the high-pace “Speed Test” of Thoroughly Modern Milly, the singers left it all on the stage. A male and female ensemble performed arrangements of “Here Comes the Sun,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and “We Are Family.”
At that point, the scheduled program came to an end – yet the concert continued. The lights dimmed and Jane Powell, the well-known R&B/jazz/soul singer of Roanoke, entered the stage. To several whoops and the applause of the audience, she moved the mic stand out of her way and began her rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” scatting the lyrics and jigging to the bass solo of Ruzemberg Martins. With her husband, drummer J.J. Jackson, behind her, Powell continued to sing tunes from Bob Marley, Otis Redding and others, giving an impressive whistle solo in Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” Between songs, Powell told funny little anecdotes about her travels, performances and the first time she met Jackson. When each story approached an ending, she would launch unexpectedly into her next song, keeping things surprising and fresh.
In the middle of “Stand by Me,” the Oriana Singers reentered the stage and continued with choral renditions of “Oh Happy Day” and “Blue Sky,” Powell providing the lead vocals and the rhythm section continuing to play. The last song was performed to a standing ovation.
Upon leaving, several people talked about the performance. Much, if not all, of the crowd was happy with the performance of Powell and the others. With proceeds benefitting medical research and the crowd satisfied, the concert was a great success.
-Submitted by Richard Smith