By Don Heckman
When the Society of Singers (often referred to with the appropriate abbreviation S.O.S.) has a performance program it can best be described as a win-win event. A winner in the sense that it raises funds for the S.O.S programs providing financial support for singers in need. And a winner in the sense that audiences at S.O.S. events always experience programs of appealing musicality.
Which was exactly what happened at Café Cordial Monday night, when an enthusiastic turnout of S.O.S. supporters was entertained by the stellar line up of Alan Bergman, Bill Cantos & Mari Falcone and Lillias White.
Pianist/singer/songwriter Cantos was the emcee, the primary accompanist, and a performer in his own right for most of the evening. As humorously entertaining as he was musically versatile, he assembled and managed an evening filled with songs.
Many came from his own growing catalog of works, others were provided by the always engaging Alan Bergman. And at least one tune –- the whimsical “Everybody’s On the Phone” – was co-written by Cantos with Alan and Marilyn Bergman.
The program kicked off with Cantos’ “Morning Coffee,” followed by his “Sensibility” and “Who Are You?” Each song was delivered with the convincing, story-telling qualities and delightful humor that Cantos brings to his performances. Add to that his far-ranging musicality, often scatting in unison with his piano lines, sometimes humming back-up counterpoint lines to his melodies.
Up next, Bergman offered one of his typically irresistible performances. Hearing a songwriter sing his/her own songs is always an insightful experience. But never more so than with Bergman, who is, in addition to his songwriting partnership with his wife, Marilyn, also a convincing singer in his own right.
Before he started, he offered one of his familiar nuggets of background on the art of writing song lyrics, noting that “the words are on the tips of the notes, and we have to find them.” And then he proceeded to prove his point with his versions of “The Windmills of Your Mind” and “You Must Believe in Spring” (both classics written with Michel Legrand) and “That Face” (written by Alan as a successful marriage proposal to Marilyn).
Tony Award-winning Broadway star Lillias White then joined the Cantos trio for a jaunty, soulful group of numbers. Beginning with Canto’s “You Got Me” she followed with a hilariously rocking “I Want A Big Fat Daddy” and the lyrical “Love Wins.”
The evening was topped off by Cantos and his wife, pianist Mari Falcone. Interacting musically, sharing the keyboard on their electric piano, they offered delightful renderings of Cantos’ “Perfect Day” and “Smoke and Mirrors,” along with a climactic “I’ve Got Plenty of Nothing.”
Call it a musical evening in which everything went right, from the quality of the performances to the support for the Society of Singers. All of which provided plenty of good reasons – musical and otherwise — to show up for the next S.O.S. program.
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Photos by Faith Frenz.