Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey

Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey
Adrienne Dillard
Made Global Publishing
Lexington, Kentucky
ISBN: 978-84-937464-7-6
Trade paperback
306 pages

How many illegitimate children have been born who had royal fathers? Kings who misused their wealth, power, and influence to impregnate a woman is not unusual even in present times. Surprisingly many have been known throughout history and many were acknowledged or accepted by their royal cousins and step-families.

Catherine Carey believed her parents were Mary Boleyn and William Carey. Being that her family had fled to Calais when trouble began with her aunt, Anne Boleyn, she was not aware of her probable lineage. Mary had been a mistress to King Henry VIII before he had a relationship with her sister while married to William. When Catherine was born, most people realized that Henry was her father being that both shared the same shade of red hair. She did not know of her true lineage until she was summoned to court.

Now that Henry was marrying Anne of Cleves, Catherine was invited to return to court to serve the new queen. How would the young woman who was a niece to Anne Boleyn fit into this new court where intrigue and gossip reigned?

Catherine Carey served many queens during her life at court and survived through the reign of others from Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, Katherine Parr, Edward VI, Jane Grey, Queen Mary and into the reign of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Cor Rotto is a possible and likely tale of what could have happened between the documented historical events. Being that with some of these rulers, not being at court or even out of the country was much safer.

Cor Rotto in Latin means "heart-broken". Obviously much of story of this novel is romantic focusing on Catherine's marriage and relationship with her husband. Even though there were some "heartbreaks" in her life, Catherine led a privileged life of wealth with a stable and loyal marriage complete with numerous children.

Historical fiction relies on documented events and creates a fiction logically filling in the undocumented sequences. The author, Adrienne Dillard chose to write Catherine's story as a historical romantic novel.

Cor Rotto is an intriguing, fast-paced story of a time period in England that resulted in major changes for the country and how many who survived of the time actually were forced to live.

The Prince of Risk

The Prince of Risk
Christopher Reich
Anchor Books
Random House
New York, New York
Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-307-94657-7
$ 9.99
548 pages

The Prince of Risk proves that some people seems to live charmed lives being born into good-looks, brains, and money. However appearances can be deceiving. Some people enjoy and thrive on taking huge risks in life, walking a tight-rope between success and bankruptcy.

Robert "Bobby" Astor is a self-made man. Even though not earning a college degree, throughout the years he has instinctively known when to buy and sell on the stock market earning a reputable and successful career as a hedge fund manager. He has paid the price of success by realizing that his career has essentially become his family. Since juggling two families is difficult, his wife divorced him taking his daughter with her.

Bobby's father is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. He discovers a major problem and realizes the need to contact the Secretary of the Treasury, Martin Gelman and Charles Hughes, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. The three realize that this problem is overwhelming and immediately they depart to consult with the President. This problem is so large that they realize that it is imperative that they awaken the White House in the middle of the night. However, they never arrive.

In their armored Chevrolet Suburban the vehicle quickly maneuvers onto the street and has passed security at the gates of the White House. Once on the property of the White House, it appears that their driver plans to crash the vehicle into the building. Those inside the vehicle quickly realize that the driver is not controlling the car but someone else is driving the vehicle as a remote-controlled-car. How could this happen? The Secret Service has no choice but to defend the White House grounds and open fire on the vehicle, exploding the car and killing all those inside.

Bobby was estranged from his father. They seldom spoke. His father in his last moments of life, sent Bobby a text, "Palantir". Bobby had no idea what it was or what it meant. He did realize that this obviously was huge, whatever it was. Although he wanted to devote time to research Palantir, his own company was having a financial meltdown and on the verge of bankruptcy.

The Prince of Risk is a page-turning action-filled novel with many life-or-death situations galloping the financial district of Wall Street and the U.S. Economy seeming to walk a tightrope between life and death.

From the Asian triads which began as secret societies founded in the last century to help support and protect communities from the tyrannies and injustices of their governments. Frequently they could provide justice without dealing with beauracracy. In many instances, these groups also allowed and made certain that local businessmen had financing, helped ensure that police or petty government officials did not interfere with their activities, and engaged in other, less proper businesses, such as prostitution, drug trafficking, and extortion. In the end, a triad was a business, and like all businesses, it was required to earn a profit. To many, the triad was a blessing not just a mafia-like organization.

So how could the triads in Asia cause a problem large enough to murder the three most influential financial minds in America?

This is the story of Bobby as he attempts to save his own company, his family and his country. Will he risk everything to save life as he knows it?

Christopher Reich is the author of many action-adventure thrillers novels and short stories. He currently resides in San Diego, California.

The Prince of Risk is a thrill to read about the financial world where everyone is one step away from immense gains and death.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Jo Baker
Alfred A. Knopf
Random House
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-385-35123-2
$ 2595
332 pages

"Life was, Mrs. Hill had come to understand, a trial by endurance, which everybody, eventually, failed."

In the memorable Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, we were introduced to characters of privilege who had servants who were to be agreeable and basically fulfill whatever their these people wished.   Basically it was slavery of a sort where their opinions of the servants were not valued and being that jobs inside the houses were few and considered prestigious, the servants worked for low wages with their housing and meals were provided.  In exchange, these same servants were granted little time-off or freedom to choose their own career.  Granted that a few people who were servants became their own independent masters, that was unusual.
This was also the time period where wealthy women wore long dresses often trailing on the ground.   Perhaps fashion would have changed sooner is the people who wore these magnificent gowns were responsible for keeping them clean.   This is the story of those who resided in the back of the house and frequently lived in the attic rooms.
Longbourn is the story of Sarah who even though she was an orphan, received the opportunity for a better life being a housemaid.   Yes, being a housemaid is definitely better than being in the workhouses where life truly was miserable.  Her days in the Bennet house of Longbourn seem monotanous but she truly appreciates her position cleaning chamber pots, hand scrubbing all the laundry, and accomplishing all the multiple duties needed to keep a place proper and clean.
Besides Sarah, the other servants in the story include Mr. and Mrs. Hill who are the long term butler and cook and another housemaid, Polly who is new and unfamiliar with the expectations and lifestyle of servitude.
Her attention is diverted when a new footman, James Smith is hired.  He seems to have a mysterious past being that most able-bodied men at the time are off fighting the Napoleonic Wars.  So why is he at Longbourn?  Being that he tends to avoid those in the military, is he a deserter?  Why does his back have scars of being whipped?
While many writers throughout the years have attempted to emulate Jane Austin, Jo Baker wonderfully composes a story which could easily be the companion novel to Pride and Prejudice, essentially an "Upstairs, Downstairs."
Longbourn is unquestionably an outstanding novel.  With vivid descriptions and visualizations, the reader feels as if they are Sarah in England during the early nineteenth century.  These is definitely a sense of the time period and the place as well as the sense of
the smells and tastes.
Yes, the story at times seems contrived as in so many romantic novels.  However, the writing is exquisite with outstanding descriptions and developed characters.
The author, Jo Baker is well known from her previous novels The Undertow, Offcomer, The Mermaid's Child and The Telling.   She was born and continues to live in England.


Jo Barney
Encore Press
Portland, Oregon
ISBN: 97801496004369
Third Edition
$ 12.95
303 pages

"Then, on this weekend, just as water flew landward onto the beach in an uprush, a breaking wave of sorrow flows through their days, an uprush that changes each of their lives."

Four longtime friends are meeting at a beach house to renew their friendships, updating and sharing their lives with each other. All the women are in their sixties and each has discovered that life is not as well-ordered and smooth as they had hoped and expected.

Madge Slocum is a successful writer and has a gift for each of her friends. In her newest manuscript, she has written a chapter covering each of the women's lives. How would you like someone documenting all your life choices into a story? Madge does have a particular touch in story writing focusing on the truth which is not always what we want others to see. Each of the three women is challenged to correct, change and to continue their story before it is sent to be published. Does anyone want their lives revealed to everyone?

Lou, Madge, Jackie and Joan have endured troubled marriages and lives that appear perfect but in actuality have more heart-break and problems than they could ever have imagined. Appearances and plastic surgery can be deceiving. This get-together every few years catches them up on each other's lives and also brings a sense of “truth” into their relationship.

After the first night together, Lou, Jackie and Joan awaken to find Madge is not in the house. However, they are not really surprised. Together they wander on the beach and discover Madge's walking stick. Could Madge have been drowned, taken out with the tide? Why are these women not frantically searching more for her?

The women call the local sheriff after awhile to inform him of Madge's disappearance.

Lucius Baker tends to have an easy life in this small community. The most excitement he has had since taking this job in this small community of three thousand has been chasing cows, rescuing cats and goats and breaking up fights in the bars. His years of experience have given him an intuitive sense of knowing that these three women have not been completely truthful with him. Where is Madge? What secrets are they refusing to share with him?

Uprush is a stimulating novel to read involving realistic characters who have believable issues in their lives. The writing at first is a little confusing until it is understood the differences between Madge's writing and the actual events of the story. The characterization is outstanding with the reader being able to actually visualize each person and to understand the challenges and successes of each woman.

Uprush was previous published as The Solarium and is still available through Barnes and Noble and I-Books.

Jo Barney has written numerous short stories and has also published the thriller Graffiti Grandma.

Uprush is a novel reflecting our human nature and finding “truth” in our lives.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The BOOB Girls III - Sandhills and Shadows

The BOOB Girls III
Sandhills and Shadows
The Burned Out Old Broads at Table 12
Joy Johnson
Grief Illustrated Press
Omaha, Nebraska
ISBN: 978010561232314
$ 14.95
240 pages

A gorgeous gypsy reading palms of well-kept and well-respected residents of a nursing home is a calm activity until she alerts those seated at her table to move and to move quickly. In a matter of seconds, a 1962 Cadillac Eldorado convertible is occupying the exact spot where the fortune telling was occurring. The warning had saved their lives. How had Esmeralda St. Benedict known of the impending danger? However she had not warned the poor victim who was trapped in the bathroom after the car had pushed tables in front of the restroom door.

The BOOB girls which stands for The Burned Out Old Broads at Table 12 at the Meadow Lakes Retirement Community. Filling the chairs at the table are Mary Rose McGill, Dr. Robinson Leary and Hadley Joy Morris-Whitfield with one vacant chair. Others have been privileged to share their friendship and adventures with these three women who are determined to live each day to its fullest, even during their autumn years.

Filling the fourth chair at Table 12 now is Esmeralda, the gypsy who definitely is adding a new dimension to their already adventurous nature.

Dealing with the burned-out old broad's love life, family, health, aging, past, and hobbies continue to reveal each distinct personality into a fascinating tale.

Driving a Hummer and pulling a recreational vehicle is a challenge for many and these women successfully handle the two as their adventure continues to Fort Robinson in Nebraska discovering more about the strength and character of the historical figures as well as themselves.

All of the books in this series are light and quick reads. This particular one is different integrating history of the Sandhills. Included in this is some of the history of the imprisonment of Crazy Horse, as well as some of the lesser known parts of history such as the legendary Iron Teeth, the significance of Women's Army Corp, and various snippets of history into this story with the friendships and relationships growing and revealing a little more of each individual personality.

Author Joy Johnson co-founded North America's oldest and largest bereavement resource center for adults and Ted E. Bear Hollow for grieving children in the Omaha, Nebraska area. She has written numerous children books dealing with grief.

This third installment in this series continues the characters with light-hearted humor and friendship into an informative and educational novel in the fun-loving and delightful series.

Cookie's Case

Cookie's Case
A Tug Wyler Mystery
Mysterious Press
Open Road Integrated Media
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1-4976-6276-6
February 2015
$ 14.99
287 pages

"What I've learned over the years is that every single event is riddled with several versions of truth. It all depends on whom you ask."

Being a personal-injury lawyer in New York City, Tug Wyler daily meets challenges that keep his life fast-paced and anything but dull. Being in the category as an ambulance chaser, he knows that he is better than most lawyers in his business and that frequently he faces ethical challenges not faced by other attorneys. This is what makes him a successful and classy attorney.

There are always at least two challenges in his business. The first is the honesty of the client. Are they believable? Does Tug really have the complete report of the incident causing the injury? What information has the client chosen not to tell him. The second is the underhanded behind-the-scenes competition and cut throat of other personal-injury attorneys in their attempt to make easy money. It is common for lawyers to steal each others' clients in this business.

Tug is fortunate that he usually does not need to search for his clients. He has HICS - Henry's injured criminals. Henry was an extremely successful criminal defense attorney who committed legal malpractice and can no longer acquire professional insurance needed for his business. Henry chose Tug to continue his business. Even though this is a consistent and constant income source for Tug, each case has some element that isn't quite legal and somehow Tug has to discover a way of smoothing over this wrinkle and winning the case for the client. Of course, Henry receives a percentage in payment for his referral. Their relationship is a win-win situation.

The latest case involves Cookie who is a longtime favored exotic pole dancer at Jingles Dance Bonanza. Cookie has a charismatic charm but has had difficulty dancing since her spine surgery three years ago. She always uses some prop during her acts. What caused her initial injury was the banana peel she had used as a prop. Accidentally she slipped on it hurting herself at the conclusion of her dance. Three surgeries and years later, she has horrendous headaches that require a spinal tap to relieve the pressure on her brain. She still wants to continue to dance and does so, even in a neck brace, cartwheeling her way around the stage.

Cookie's Case is a realistic fast-paced novel that is a mystery but the actual crime is not revealed initially. The writing is addictive with pages flying. The pacing is perfect with visual protagonists and antagonists, family life concerns, and the ethical concerns of a personal-injury attorney.

The author, Andy Siegel is actually in the same business as his protagonist, Tug, as a personal-injury and medical-malpractice attorney in New York City.

Cookie's Case is the second in the Tug Wyler following Suzy's Case. The first novel was named's Best Beach Reads in 2013.

This short concise novel is wonderfully written and a great insightful glimpse into the legal community

The Death of Pie

The Death of Pie
A Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery with Recipes
Tamar Myers
Severn House
Sutton, Surrey, England
ISBN: 9780727883810
$ 27.95
200 pages

The small Amish-Mennonite village of Hernia, Pennsylvania is a traditional village. Families have resided here for generations and sometimes have difficulty finding a distant enough cousin to marry. The community welcomes outsiders but prefers their old ways.

Ms. Ramat Sreym visited the small community and was fascinated by getting to know the people. She used this information to write a best-selling novel. However most of the residents of the community were not pleased with how each of them was portrayed in this novel. A bit of truth can be vicious gossip.

While staying in Hernia, Ramat stayed at a local bed-and-breakfast, The Penn Dutch Inn owned and run by Magdalena Yoder. Unfortunately during Ramat's stay, she didn't become close friends with the owner but did succeed at making enemies of most of the community once her book was published.

Being that now the author is considered to be a celebrity, Ramat was honored to be a guest judge at annual 110th Annual Festival of Pies. The pies for this event are outstanding being made with the natural foods, lard, salt and longtime family.

Ramat takes a bite of Magdalena's pie. She falls directly into it as she dies. It was poisoned.

So who is the likely suspect?

Besides Magdalena Yoder running the bed-and-breakfast in this Amish-Mennonite community, she is a wife to her Jewish husband who is a respected cardiologist and mother to a young son and adopted teen-aged daughter. Besides that she is the town mayor and the one in town responsible for financing the needs of the community including law enforcement.

How does anyone investigate the person paying their salary?

The new Chief of Police, Toy Graham realized that it was his responsibility to discover who had poisoned the glamorous author. Being that Toy quickly realized this conflict of interest since Magdalena paid Toy's salary and had paid for his police car, he wisely requested Magdalena to find the murderer. After all, he believed that she was the murderer.

The Death of Pie is a fun-to-read cozy mystery whose story is told from Magdalena's sarcastic but realistic point-of-view. As the investigation meets dead-ends and searches for new leads, the reader is with Magdalena as she questions each possible suspect. To further complicate issues, Magdalena is related to the suspects and also realizes that she is the most likely to have poisoned Ramat. It was her pie even if she had not actually baked it.

Tamar Myers writes from her Amish/Mennonite heritage and has written and published numerous novels and short stories many with her protagonist Magdalena Yoder. Myers was born in the Belgian Congo where her parents were American-Mennonite missionaries.

The Death of Pie is a delightful fun novel to read as are all the books by Tamar Myers.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Memorist

The Memorist
M. J. Rose
Mira Books
Ontario, Canada
ISBN: 978-0-7783-2584-0
$ 24.95
460 pages

"People are part of one great cosmic awareness, her father had tried to explain in different ways over the years.  And souls who'd bonded in several lives over time and grown together through the millennium  were eventually able to communicate with each other without words through that awareness.- -  But she never had truly believed it."

A cosmic awareness that can connect the past to the present explaining people's inner motivations and relationships which can explain and miraculously answer the questions of the past is a bit much for anyone to believe, but what a great story it combines into The Memorist.

Reincarnation, could it be true?  Could people be in the cycle of being born and dying until for some reason, perhaps they have finally fulfilled their life's destiny?

Add to that the unique musical tone from a particular flute playing a mystical musical pattern that can unlock those parts of your brain. This could open those hidden memories of previous lives by listening to the circle of fifths played on an old bone flute. Could music actually have this power?

For Meer Logan, she has had a difficult past.  Throughout the years, there have been times where she has not been mentally stable, even non-responsive to the world.  After her mother's death, her father delved into his work leaving Meer to withdraw completely into herself.  Through extensive thereapy, Meer has overcome her withdrawal.  However, she still feels distant with her father.  Being trained as a pianist, she still finds a closer music connection than human.

Ludwig van Beethoven was a brilliant pianist and composer.  In this historical fictional novel, he is in possession of a special flute able to connect the thoughts of past lives to the present.  As he nears death, he realizes that this flute should not be owned by those with unethical values.  His plan is to hide it, possibly for eternity.

Is there some way that Meer could ever find it?

Award winning journalist, David Yalom watched as his family was murdered in a terrorist attack.  How can anyone move past that? His plan is to destroy the world leaders meeting in Vienna during a concert.  He has explored the massive tunnels and ruins under the buildings and streets of Vienna planning the perfect place for the explosives. In this act he would destroy the concert goers and himself while simultaneously sending his manifesto to worldwide news' agencies.

Sebastian is a member of the symphony. His son has withdrawn into himself splintering his marriage. He will do anything to save his son. What price will he pay?

A security firm wants to prove their excellence by providing safety for the international leaders and for the concert goers.  However, they overlooked the area under the concert hall.   Will they find the bomb in time?

Reincarnation, personality withdrawal, Beethoven's flute and the circle of fifths' melody, terrorism and security all combine into a riveting story creating The Memorist.   This non-stop page turner combines history into a breathless tale by a master storyteller, M. J. Rose.

The author, M. J. Rose has written numerous novels both fiction and non-fiction while being a founder and board member of International Thriller Writers as well as

The Memorist is an intriguing novel, fast-paced, and riveting making you wonder about what might be in your past.

The Girl in 6E

The Girl in 6E
A Deanna Madden Novel
A. R. Torre
Redhook Books
Hachette Books
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0316404389
July 2014
$ 20.00
352 pages
"Hope is dangerous.  Hope can be the loose thread that pulls apart your sanity."

People are judged by how others view them.  If you live next door to a librarian, you expect the person to be quiet and rather reserved.  If your neighbor is a policeman, you expect a no-nonsense individual who has a strong few of right and wrong. What kind of neighbor would an internet sex performer be?

What would you expect if your neighbor was a recluse who received numerous packages and was never seen outside their apartment?   Also, there is a lock on the outside imprisoning the occupant.  Would you be curious?   Would you attempt to make contact with this person or would you leave them alone?

This is the problem a delivery person has with the person living in apartment 6E.   She has a nice voice and appears to be attractive.  So why won't this person come out of their apartment? Jeremy, the UPS deliveryman slowly has a form of relationship with the resident in 6E leaving packages and forging her signature. That doesn't stop his curiosity. He wonders about the girl in 6E. He is intrigued by Jessica.

What about the occupant?  Shouldn't they be entitled to their privacy?  As long as no one is being harmed, endangered, and no laws are being broken, why can't people just leave others alone?

Who really cares if she earns her money through the internet via online sex sites?

Are the people on these sites moral, ethical, or even good people?

"I haven't touched another person in three years. That seems like a difficult task, but it's not anymore, thanks to the Internet.  The Internet makes my income possible and provides anything I could possibly want in exchange for my credit card number.  I've had to go into the underground world for a few things, and once in that world, I decided to stock up on a few fun items, like a new identity.  I am now, when necessary, Jessica Beth Reilly.  I use my alias to prevent others from finding out about my past."

The Girl in 6E is an intriguing novel with the protagonist/antagonist Deanna Madden/Jessica Reilly  living a comfortable life in a self-enclosed prison of her own creation.  This duality creates a novel that at times felt disgusting while at the same time slowly unveils the secrets of the main character, similar to pulling off each layer of an onion to find the soul with an assortment of supporting characters who you are never completely certain who is helpful and who is just plain evil.  This constant weighing of love/hate or good/bad made for an unusual story.

The author, Alessandra Torre is a wife and mother living in the southern part of the United States.   Previously she has written two erotic novels, Blindfolded Innocence published in 2012 and its sequel, Masked Innocence in 2013.

The Girl in 6E is not a novel for everyone, especially anyone under the age of eighteen.  It is an adult novel but unquestionably is written by a gifted writer who can weave a character into an intricate and well-written story with numerous colored threads.

Monday, December 15, 2014

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Everyone one has secret dreams.  "I've always wanted to be called Flash."  Who would have this dream?  The unlikely character of Charlie Brown from Charles Schultz's Peanuts shared his secret dream with Lucy.  Of course she would keep his secret safe.
"You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" focuses on the frustrations that almost everyone has felt while growing-up.  Whether it is loneliness, tying your shoes, crushes on the little red-haired girl, Valentine's Day, or never winning a ball game, the issues although small to adults are reminscent of everyone's childhood.
Last Friday and Saturday nights at the Chanticleer Theater as part of the Cabaret series six talented individuals became Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Sally in the Tony Award winning musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
The purpose of the programs in the Cabaret series are fund raisers for only one weekend. This particular show was different for this series.   Even with only two performances, this delightful family show introduced many new performers and audience members to Chanticleer.
Jack Erbs was wonderful as the socially-challenged Charlie Brown who has to eat lunch by himself and never being part of a winning ball team.  While perfectly wearing the yellow t-shirt, the audience even occassionally had a glimpse of his marvelous singing voice.  As the slightly overbearing Lucy, Elizabeth Huggins was marvelous ruling on the stage with her dreams of being the Queen.  Darin Hemmer was a great dancing Snoopy even with a little acrobatics and moonwalking.  Megan Lane was delightful as Sally, Charlie Brown's little sister.   Linus portrayed by Eric Cavanaugh warmed everyone's hearts as he sang and danced with his blanket showing the vulnerability and brilliance of his character.  Tessie  Flower excelled in the role of Peppermint Patty in her down-to-earth wisdom with a beautiful singing voice.
The minimal sets were completely appropriate considering that the entire cast was on stage all the time.   The lighting, music, sound and direction were outstanding in that the musical appeared seamless and smooth.
Naturally as in all shows there are favorite scenes.  "The Kite" was outstanding with Charlie Brown singing about his frustration a kite that doesn't always want to fly.  However the kite eating tree perfectly matched the song and the action on stage creating a humorous but honest viewpoint from Charlie Brown.
Another of my favorites is "The Book Report" where Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Charlie Brown and Linus are all to write a one-hundred word book report about Peter Rabbit.   Varying from Linus's verbose report, Peppermint Patty comparing the book to Robin Hood and basing her report completely on that book.   Lucy is focused on the one-hundred words and can finally approach the goal but only by listing the vegetables growing in the garden and over-using "very".   Charlie Brown just keeps worrying about not being rested so he continues to procrastinates.
I applaude Chanticleer for taking a chance on a different fund-raiser that was family oriented, humorous, relaxing and enjoyable for everyone.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Joyful Noise

"That's Christmas spelled C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S.  X mas take on a whole different meaning when it's Christmas."

This quote is part of a program featuring the gospel choir from Salem Baptist Church with their program "A Joyful Noise: A Gospel Christmas” last Sunday at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha. This program featured the Grammy-nominated Salem Baptist Church choir located in Omaha with their singers, band, dancers, children and special guests Lecresia Campbell, Jonathan McReynolds, Daniel Martinez, Eric Jordan and Elaine Stoner. This collaborative program combined Omaha Performing Arts with Omaha's Salem Baptist Church members and musical friends.

The choir along with the band was the foundation of this program which was essentially a variety gospel program. The band played various accompaniments while also playing an independent number of "Carol of the Bells' reminiscent of Mannheim Steamroller with "My Favorite Things" blended into this melody. A large screen provided background graphics for the instrumental group as well as the entire program.

The Salem Gospel Choir was amazing.   They obviously knew the music which varied between unison and three-part SAB singing.  Every member of the choir had their eyes on the conductor, not holding their music but knowing their music, barely blinking as every chorus member attentively watched for their cues and cut-offs while all being dressed beautifully in black.

Each solo performer was very different representing their own interpretation and style of gospel music.

Daniel Martinez played an amazing rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" on his acoustical guitar.   This was an invigorating and delightful arrangement.  This international Flamenco guitarist is brilliant in his playing.  He has recorded five solo albums.

Also performing was Jonathan McReynolds singing and playing a reflective song stating what many today believe with words such as "I want to be saved and be cool too."  He sings with a lyrical voice relating to everyday life.   He recently signed with Tehillah Music Group/Light Records label.    

An unusual but meaningful selection was "Christmas Makes Me Cry" sung by Elaine Stoner and Eric Jordan. Christmas is not the same for everyone and this piece was wonderful for showing different perspectives.

Lecresia Campbell sang one song, "Holy, Thou Art Holy" which unquestionably demonstrated why she is considered as one of the best gospel singers in the country.

One of the most outstanding parts of this program was the integration of the children in the show with the dancing and singing while dressed in their holiday best.   It was obvious the these young church members had practiced many hours to dance and sing their songs with such enthusiasm.   The leadership is truly outstanding in allowing each child to be part of this exciting event while being close for the support and redirection if needed.

The dancers were usually from the pre-school aged through teenagers all of which were beautifully and tastefully costumed.  What is seldom seen is that each dancer did not have to fit a particular stereotype. With their gorgeous and flowing costumes, you could tell that each dancer felt their steps as a reflection of their relationship with the music. Obviously much time was taken to work with the youth in this professional quality show with outstanding choreography, music and stagemanship.

The entire cast of this program exemplified stagemanship, respect, beauty, devotion, and professionalism in their performance with minimizing movement between acts and truly finding the beauty for each individual performer.

WOWT sponsored this program this year and along with other sponsors sees this as the beginning of an annual event which is entertaining, respectful, uplifting and puts Christ back in Christmas.

The King's Singers

Six male voices perfectly blending into one well-balanced sound is how to describe The King's Singers. This Grammy winning ensemble performed at the Holland Performing Arts Center last week thrilling the audience with close-harmonies and exciting seasonal madrigals.

The King's Singers is a British a cappella group that was formed in 1968 being named after King's College in Cambridge, England.  It is complied of six choral scholars. Since the group's creation, their sound has not changed. Although the members have changed through the years, their sound has not. For the group, that is the foremost requirement. As the group sings, the focus is on blended intonation as well as precision with minimal use of vibrato into harmonies that sound as if they are coming from one single voice.

The current members of The King's Singers are countertenors David Hurley and Timothy Wayne-Wright, Julian Gregory singing tenor, baritones Christopher Brueton and Christopher Gabbitas and Jonathan Howard as bass.  As they entered the stage, the group was dressed identically in dark blue suits, red ties, tan shoes and at least one foot was wearing a Christmas sock.

Much of the music was sung in another language while the audience relished in the perfectly balanced harmonies of the group.  Musical selections in the first part were the old carols from various parts of Europe with members of the group explaining the meaning of each.  Naturally being British, there were some newer selections by John Rutter and Herbert Howells.  Other selections well-known were "Es ist ein Ros' Entsprungen" by Michael Praetorius which is better known to us as "Lo, How a Rose ere Bloometh", "Coventry Carol", and the gorgeous rendition of John Rutter's "There is a Flower".

New to me was the music of Francis Pouleric who wrote a cantata in four movements each of which was shortened and arranged by Goff Richards for the ensemble,  This particular music had lyrics written by Paul Eluard in 1944 while serving in the French resistance. Reflective of a cold winter night in a French forest, the beauty of a wolf being compared to a German soldier, being lost, and finally hiding underground from the Germans combining fear with the feeling of isolation being created into hauntingly beautiful musical selections.

Besides the blend and balance of The King's Singers, their precise intonation was amazing.Their breathing included a minimum of four-bar-phrasing leaving the audience almost breathless at the conclusion of each song.  Complementing this is the concert hall itself, where the audience listened for the resonance pf sound as each selection ended.

Part of what is unique to this group is that no one is attempting to out sing another part. Their blending of voices is perfect. Along with the utilization of quietness, silence, and minimal vibrato creates a serene and peaceful performance while still exciting through using dynamics expressively as each part interweaves into and through each other.

After the intermission, the program changed into more current and seasonal medlies delighting the audience adding a little choreography and showmanship.

The King's Singers is a group I would enjoy seeing again and again.  Why not purchase their songs this Christmas as a perfect gift of music?