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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Song stylist Luebber brings experience to Gershwin songs at OFO concert

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Song stylist Rebecca Luebber of Joplin, at right, discusses a fine point of performing the songs of George Gershwin with pianist Robert Ensor during rehearsal with the Ozark Festival Orchestra on Tuesday. Luebber and her jazz trio will be guest soloists with the orchestra at the 13th annual Pops in the Park concert and third annual pie and ice cream benefit beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Monett City Park Casino. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Rebecca Luebber will bring considerable experience with the songs of George Gershwin to Monett City Park Casino at South Park on Sunday as guest soloist at the Ozark Festival Orchestra's 13th annual Pops in the Park concert combined with the third annual pie and ice cream benefit for the orchestra. Luebber is bringing her jazz trio to perform songs by Gershwin as part of the concert/benefit.

Admission will be $10 for adults and $5 for children. Those attending will receive their choice of homemade pies, made by orchestra members, ice cream, coffee or punch for their money, in addition to the music. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. The music will begin around 2:15 p.m.

The songs of George Gershwin and lyrics by his brother, Ira, are widely regarded as some of the best ever written in America. For Luebber, there is a personal connection.

"I love the lyrics," Luebber said. "They are like whole plays in less than three minutes. I believe the audience can relate to these 'stories' from their own life experiences. The melodies are gorgeous and easily remembered...they take you places."

As a performer, Luebber has her own connection with these familiar songs.

"You see.... they take me places, as well. Yes, there are stories that come to mind...people come to mind, emotional situations...all are important elements to create songs from the heart that ring true to those people listening in," she said.

Keeping old songs fresh for a performer can be a challenge but not with Gershwin songs, Luebber said.

"You never tire of Gershwin. Every day something occurs that can bring a fresh nuance to their music," Luebber said. "I think the secret is to be in the moment and believe what you're singing about...whether the song is talking about my feelings ["S'Wonderful"] or about how love makes you feel ["Love Walked In"] or those funny mannerisms that endear a person to you ["They Can't Take That Away From Me"]."

Luebber sees the dynamic of adding the jazz trio, Robert Ensor on piano and Robert Terry on bass, to song performance like adding another friend to the conversation.

"We always are listening to each other intensely whether it's a duo, trio, etc. Singing with a pianist, like Robert Ensor, I feel a musical cord ties us together...and I know he is not only spontaneously creative but supportive as well.

"The trio allows a flexibility and freedom for the singer and the pianist," Luebber continued. "The bass is in charge of the 'time' and we can create, float and soar around that space the timekeeper creates. There are just different sound textures, colors...again more flexibility."

In her last performance with the Ozark Festival Orchestra, Luebber focused on several classics and the musical theatre. She is excited about adding jazz to a performance for a Monett audience and the challenge of singing in a different style. She will sing both Gershwin and a showpiece aria from an opera by Puccini.

"There is a huge vocal approach difference between jazz and classical music," Luebber said. "Jazz is a straight tone...with freedoms to improvise on the spot. Puccini is a warm emotional tone created with a shimmering vibrato...the notes are the notes...and it is timeless and always challenging. Jazz allows more play but is equally challenging because you are reinventing the musical line.

"I hope the people will sense we are creating new musical ideas in the moment. I want them to feel the songs. I hope they listen to the lyrics as well as the melodies. I guess I want them to listen for the joy and the love in these songs. I would like to lift them up," Luebber said.

Interpreting songs is a craft Luebber said she has done all her life. Her ideas about songs have evolved along the way.

"I believe I have always felt what I was singing, but life enriches everything----all the heartache, all the sweetest moments, family, the life experiences shape all my interpretations. They all come from a 'truth' in me," Luebber said.

In performing songs, Luebber said she is keenly aware of how her audiences respond to what she does. Asked what it would be like to have George or Ira in the audience, hearing her interpretation of their songs, Luebber hoped she could do justice to their creations.

"I suppose I try to honor them and show my adoration for their musical gifts whenever I sing their songs," Luebber said. "I would want them to just sit back and enjoy the ride, have a smile and say, 'She knows what she's singing about,' and maybe hum along."

For the concert, the OFO will play Bob Lowden's medley "Disney Magic," Bruce Chase's medley "Broadway Tonight," Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell," Clare Grundman's "Second American Folk Rhapsody," an arrangement for salon orchestra of "After the Ball" from "Showboat" with Luebber, "The Star Spangled Banner," "America The Beautiful" and Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."

In addition, there will be a silent auction of performance tickets, music-related items, food delicacies from Trader Joe's and other fun surprises. Extra pies will be sold at the end of the concert.

Funds raised will help defray expenses from the concert season. The OFO is supported by memberships, donations, and endowments managed by the Monett Community Foundation.

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