Tendrils of smoke create a mysterious atmosphere of anticipation while geometric projections rotate slowly on the B.J. Haan walls. Bright blue backlights color the percussion section before the show begins. Ushers help guide people to their assigned seats. The auditorium is packed, despite being rescheduled from last weekend’s blizzarding weather.
The soundscape of NISO paved the way for the beautiful vocals from the Texas Tenors this past weekend on the B.J. Haan’s stage. These big-time 2009 America’s Got Talent country singers brought a spectacular night of entertainment.
“Overall, it’s a good experience for our campus community,” said NISO executive director Dr. Onsby Rose. “It’s something exciting for a small rural area like ours.”
A lot of advertising went out for the concert, including posters, Instagram posts, and a radio broadcast featuring Rose. Inviting a group this big provided some aspect of risk for NISO, because the Tenors have a prominent reputation and it was important to break even.
Without a doubt, the group came through, exceeding expectations.
“I didn’t have the slightest clue who these guys were, but I sure am glad I came to this concert!” said junior Selena Munson. “I think this is the best NISO concert I’ve ever been to.”
Some Dordt students had a more personal experience with the Texas Tenors.
“The strangest part of the concert was definitely the Tenors calling Sommer Schaap and I to the front because we were loudly supporting them throughout the whole concert,” said freshman digital media & communications major Lindsay Kuiper. “I still can’t believe we actually went up there and met Marcus Collins! He asked us our names and had us sit in the front row and we were there for the rest of the concert. It was a party, to say the least.”
The three Tenors had the energy and ability to keep the crowd hyped—at least, as much as is possible for a Midwest Iowan audience. They performed country toe-tappers like “Boot Daddy” and “Country Roads” that had students waving their cell phone lights.
“It was incredible that he brought us to the front and asked us our names in front of the crowd,” said freshman Sommer Schaap. “Then he sang Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” to us and to Bev, an elderly lady who was also sitting near the front.”
These guys also could switch moods in a heartbeat, turning to a more reflective piece like “Galveston” which had people leaning forward, hushed, in their seats.
“We love performing with a live orchestra, and this is a fantastic one!” said Collins. Surprisingly, the Texas Tenors have never performed with a double harp in all their 1400+ concerts. This time, Dordt brought them a unique twist, featuring Dordt harpists Anna Blauw and Maggie Burgsma.
Throughout the entirety of the performance, the Tenors wore black cowboy hats. Other times one would be balanced on a microphone stand—a nod towards their Southern name. However, this did not restrict them from performing every genre imaginable.
They switched to a more theatrical note, including pieces like “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. The violins flew cinematically in selections from the Phantom of the Opera.
“My favorite song was probably the Phantom of the Opera “Overture,” it gave me chills listening to it,” said Schaap. “Their voices blend so well, and I love that song in general… hearing three amazing men singing it just put it over the top.”
“I really loved that they did a little bit of everything, from country to pop to classical to Broadway,” said Munson. “There was definitely something for everyone.”
One challenge of bringing such a large operation onto Dordt’s campus was the amount of technological requirements. Most of what the Texas Tenors normally require is much grander than what the B.J. Haan auditorium has to offer.
“We had to overcome some hurdles,” said Rose. This challenge was extended with the tight squeeze of getting everyone onto the auditorium stage—having both an orchestra and a big-time vocal band with their high-tech equipment required some problem-solving.
As is commonly part of the Winter Pops Concert, NISO also featured a guest conductor—someone who does not actually know much about conducting but receives enough votes to get put on the stage in front of a very capable orchestra. Of the three men who vied for the place of celebrity guest conductor this year, Lyle Van Ravenswaay from Hull was the lucky winner. He won the most votes, along with the golden baton. Overall, the NISO fundraiser raised $7,582.
The show ended with “My Way,” a great curtain-down for an exciting performance.
“I had no idea who they were before going to the concert,” said Kuiper. “But I think it’s safe to say I know them really well now.”
Their tour will bring them back to Iowa locations soon, including Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and Burlington.