Show-stopping performances by Sunshine Coast vocal ensembles and soloists under the direction of 95-year-old impresario Nikki Weber played to a sold-out house at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse on July 9.
The Silver Lining revue opened with local four-part harmony group Sh-Boom, which is composed of Mike Weber, Ron Leclerc, Colin Mailey and Allan Nienhuis. The group sang a lineup of classic rock ‘n’ roll classics, including a rollicking Roy Orbison medley that featured solos from Leclerc, Mailey and Mike Weber.
Mike himself channeled Elvis Presley for a hip-twisting rendition of Teddy Bear, while Mailey coaxed audible sighs from the all-ages audience during his performance of the 1951 ballad Blue Velvet.
The group was followed by the J-Tones, a three-voice female ensemble made up of Joy Germaine, Joan Vernon and Jan Gillis. Their delicate version of Bye Bye Blackbird also demonstrated the versatility of the evening’s pianist, Miles Black, who accompanied the number on guitar. Germaine returned after an intermission to sing a sultry version of the 1962-vintage Peel Me a Grape.
Nikki arranges the harmonies for the groups, and provides ongoing musical direction. During a six-hour rehearsal on Saturday, she sat in the theatre’s front row to provide feedback and encouragement.
“I’ve been in show biz from age five,” said Nikki, who was born in the West Indies and moved to Holland at the age of 10. “I’ve done harmony since I was little. My sister and I were always harmonizing. It was good for me during the war because we could sing and get food instead of money. I think music is an uplift at all times.”
Nikki’s son Mike is a fixture of Sh-Boom, and her granddaughter Maddy delivered two powerful solos before being backed by sombrero-topped members of Sh-Boom for a rendition of the mariachi Y Andale.
Soloists Jacqueline Allan and Trudi Diening also performed. Allan complemented her crooning of seductive numbers like Let’s Do It with service as the show’s master of ceremonies. Diening delivered three pieces with such tenderness and precision — especially in her interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now — that audience members leaned forward in their seats to savour every note.
Apart from pianist Black, the backup band included bassist Boyd Norman, saxophonist and flutist Karen Graves, and drummer Kristian Braathen. Braathen, who grew up on the Sunshine Coast, was one of many young performers that Nikki recognized and nurtured.
“When I heard him play the drums,” Nikki said, “he just so quick on the uptake. When he was doing that, I said to his mom, ‘He’ll be playing the drums far more than once.’” Today, Braathen is a professional musician and founder of the Kristian Braathen Trio.
During the show’s second half, Brian Harbinson joined Sh-Boom as a powerhouse soloist on In the Still of the Night. Harbinson will be stepping into a full-time Sh-Boom role when Mailey relocates to Vancouver Island later this year.
Nikki is already planning her next show for a date this autumn. “All my life, music has been in it one way or the other,” she said, “either listening or doing the arrangements.
It’s been wonderful, there’s a lot of laughter, and I’ve been at it for a long time.”