Hit the Trails With Masterworks Choral Ensemble

by Molly Gilmore for OLY ARTS

This fall, Masterworks Choral Ensemble takes a break from traditional tunes to head for the Old West. The group’s next concert, Way Out West: Beloved American Ballads, surveys that “Home on the Range” — and yes, that tune is included — with music from the westward expansion or inspired by those rough-and-ready days.

“This is kind of outside of the box,” said Gary Witley, the group’s artistic director. “If you said that Masterworks was going to perform country-western music and music of the Old West, people might go, ‘What?’ But you can take familiar songs, simple songs that people know, and have interesting arrangements and staging and costuming and make a unique show.” Instead of dressing in tuxedos and glittering black dresses, the choir will wear Western dress, and hay bales will set the scene. And there’ll be a surprise mystery guest. “It’s a different kind of experience than one would expect from a choral group,” Witley said.

The program touches on the movie cowboys of the ’30s and ’40s and pays tribute to the Man in Black. “I really like the Johnny Cash medley,” Witley said. “It’s ‘I Walk the Line,’ ‘Ring of Fire’ and ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky,’ which are three great tunes.” Also on the program are “Sixteen Tons” and “Polly Wolly Doodle.” The songs’ familiarity is part of their charm, but the choir will sing different arrangements of these old favorites. “It’s a way to bring new life to tunes that everybody already knows,” Witley said. Despite that change, it seems likely some in the audience will hum or sing along under their breath. They’ll get their chance on the last number, a sing-along “Happy Trails.”

In addition to the singers and surprise guest, the concert features violinist Caddie Derby of Lacey, a winner of Masterworks’ Youth Music Competition. Caddie, a junior who’s homeschooled and attends Northwest Christian High School, has played for eight years with Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia.

What: Way Out West: Beloved American Ballads

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts,
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14

How much: $10-$26

Get tickets: 360-753-8586 | MCE

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