by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Chicago-based vocal ensemble Table for 5 performed for Kaneland Harter Middle School students on May 18, belting out a handful of musical numbers while also teaching students the importance of emphasizing the visual aspects of performance while singing for an audience.
Halfway into the quintet’s performance, KMS students proved to be no vocal slouches themselves, either, and performed Toto’s “Africa” for their guest singers, stomping the floor to emphasize percussion and mimicking the song’s keyboard parts with vocals.
The visiting vocal ensemble was clearly impressed.
“The kids were great,” Table for 5 member Jeff Duke said. “(Kaneland Harter Middle School music teachers) Lori (Grant) and Brian (Kowalski) do an excellent job in motivating their students and helping them experience the joy of making music.”
Grant said it was a wonderful opportunity for the students to hear and learn from professional musicians.
“Table for 5 has a ‘New York Voices’ sound, but they are right here from the heartland,” she said.
The current line-up of Table for 5 has been together for three years, and consists of Jeff Duke, Heather Braoudakis, Amy Pickering, Roger Anderson and Kathryn Kemp. However, only four members of the group performed for KMS, as Kemp was unable to attend the concert.
Table for 5′s musical repertoire includes classical, jazz, pop and broadway, and four of the group’s members (Duke, Braoudakis, Pickering and Kemp) sing with the Chicago Symphony Chorus. So it’s not surprising that the quintet’s song choices for the Harter Middle School concert ranged from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “South Pacific” to ’60s music, as well as some Wizard of Oz-inspired vocal histrionics. Despite the diversity of the performed material, the group’s strong vocals and complex harmonies weaved effortlessly throughout each song.
“Since we were missing one of our members on Wednesday, we picked arrangements that we thought would not suffer from having a smaller ensemble,” Duke said. “Also, we wanted to pick music that would show the kids how to act and perform a song and let their personalities shine through.”
Duke said the quintet has a variety of music in its catalogue, and will sometimes perform themed concerts when they feel arts series presenters are looking for a particular genre or era of music.
“We try to pick interesting and complex arrangements that will keep the audience’s interest,” he said. “We have had a lot of arrangements written just for us, and that is always helpful to help a group create its own identity.”
Table for 5 doesn’t perform many concerts for schools, but relished the opportunity to perform for Harter Middle School students, talking and giving advice to students between songs, and really hamming it up for students, in an effort to demonstrate the importance of a singer injecting some personality into the performance.
“We don’t do a lot of schools but when we get a chance we always have a great time,” Duke said. “Occasionally when we do a concert series in a community or university, they will coordinate a time for us to get together with students that are interested in the performing arts. It is really fun to share some of the knowledge that we have gained by being working professionals in the arts.”