On June 23, 2018, Classic Urban Harmony produced and emceed their first all acappella R&B and Doo Wop concert at West Chester PA’s Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center. The concert was sold out and a huge success. Rehearsals began at 3:30 pm with a big spread of food for the singers. We started with a meet & greet reception for those holding gold seat tickets. The reception was held upstairs in the Univest Room. There audience members got to converse and take photos with the singers and indulge in light refreshments. Other celebrities at the reception included radio personalities Ali Hackett and Alan David Stein.
By 7 PM, we had all moved downstairs to the theatre for the start of the concert. We were very familiar with the Uptown Knauer PAC, having emceed a doo wop concert there last November for Joan and Joel Katz as well as spending a month there as part of the cast of the musical Soul Harmony. Opening the concert was the great Jersey Shore acappella group, Reunion, Reunion was led by our friend Frank Lafaro, a Philadelphia doo wop legend of the past 55+ years. As expected, Frank was splendid in his renditions of Reunion standards “Wonderful Tonight,” “Cool Change” and “Love The One You’re With”. Rising doo wop star, JT Morgan, made a guest appearance leading Reunion in fine versions of “Drift Away,” “Morse Code Of Love” and the doo wop standard, “Gloria”. We became aware that this was Reunion’s last performance before retiring from the stage. Always sad to lose a great vocal group but we felt honored that Reunion chose a Classic Urban Harmony concert for their swan song.
Following Reunion was another fine Philly acappella group, the Copians. We chose this occasion to honor Copian member Bill Keith with a Classic Urban Harmony plaque for 60+ years as a singer and songwriter. Bill has sung with groups like the Blendtones. A Moments Pleasure, Philly Students, Neighbors Complaint, Accords, Philly Ringtones, Ecstasies, Bill Keith All Stars, Re-Vels, Brothers In Christ and others. He also was Charlie Horner’s co-host on the radio for many years. The Copians opened their set with a rocking version of “Let’s Go For A Ride”. Jim Bakay (WRDV) took the lead on that as well as the up tempo “False Alarm”. But Jim really brought the house down with a soulful versio on the Brook Benton tune, “It’s Just A Matter Of Time”. Each member of the Copians took a turn at lead, with Bob Reilly singing “Can’t Do Sixty No More” and Horace Brown doing his patented “Members Only”. One of many concert highlights was John Bishop paying tribute to the Orioles with their version of “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me”. The Orioles were the focus of a ten day run of the musical Soul Harmony at the same theatre.
We can always count on Quiet Storm to do a superb job and they didn’t disappoint. Starting out with the Impressions’ “It’s Alright,” Quiet Storm delivered a soulful set. Skip Gullett was magnificent on “If I Remember To Forget” and “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday”. Rich Hidlebird, returning to the group after a long absence, was in great form on “If I Should Lose You and “I Could Never Love Another”. Nice selections by Quiet Storm including a spectacular rendition of the Clovers’ “Blue Velvet” and even a Gospel song, the Dixie Humminbirds’ “Christian Automobile”.
At that point, we brought out Deborah Charleston to sing a couple songs with Quiet Storm. Deborah is that great jazz and blues singer from South Jersey who was so impressive on our recent Doo Wop Explosion 3. She had also been part of the cast of Soul Harmony, playing the parts of Faye Adams and Ruth Brown. Debby was again stellar in her renditions of “Shadows,” The Fool” and “Oh My Angel”. Quiet Storm was spot on with background harmony.
After a short intermission, A Perfect Blend kicked off the second half of the concert. A Perfect Blend has undergone some recent personnel changes but have retained their perfect soulful harmony. Krissy Starr started things off in great fashion with a medley of “Who’s Loving You,” “I Really Love You,” and “Yes I’m Ready”. Nice versions of “I’m Gonna Miss You” and “You Can Depend On Me” followed. Of course, Gibson’s “Never Let Me Go” is always a showstopper. A great job by a great acappella group.
Joel Katz & the Dynamics were up next. Joel is widely recognized as “The Voice of Jersey Doo Wop” but lately he’s also shown his skill as an actor in the musical Soul Harmony. Joel and the Dynamics are a talented vocal group that often sings with a live band but on this night they sang acappella for us. Joel handled most of the lead vocals, belting out songs like “Your Last Chance,” “To Make A Long Story Short,” “When We Get Married,” “Little Boy And Girl” and “Chapel Of Dreams”. Ema led the catchy up tempo song, “Denise”. Joel sounded like James Brown in the soulful “Try Me,” even having Ali Hackett come out and drape a cape over him. But the highlight of the set had to be Joel and the Dynamics rendition of “I’m Yours”. Joel sings the Duprees song to perfection.
The headline act of the concert was De’Sean Dooley backed by Quiet Storm. De’Sean is Sonny Til’s grandson and he took a one day break from playing his grandfather in Soul Harmony to sing a set of Orioles songs acappella with Quiet Storm. De’Sean is an extraordinary talent as those who saw him sing, dance and act in Soul Harmony can attest. De’Sean flawlessly rendered some of the same Orioles songs that are in Soul Harmony – “It’s Too Soon To Know,” “I Cover The Waterfront” and “Tell Me So” – only acappella with Quiet Storm. But he and Quiet Storm also sang some Orioles songs not in the musical, like “Dem Days,” “What Are You Doing New Years Eve” and “At Night”. Of course the song of the night had to be their version of “Crying In The Chapel”.
The concert’s encore was straight out of Soul Harmony. Cast members Joel Katz, Ali Hackett and Stacie Calkins recreated the musical’s song, “31 One-Nighters” (“I Wish I Was A Mole”), a rehearsal video of which had gone viral just a couple weeks before. All the other singers joined in at the end.
Our sincere thanks to all the performers, the hundreds in the audience and of course the staff at the Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center. We will be back!
Check out the many photos below, beginning with the sound checks, reception and concert. Click on any photo to enlarge and then use the side arrows to see the next photo. As this photo gallery is two pages long, you have to return to this page and click next page at the bottom of the gallery to see all the photos. [Thanks to John & Linny Bishop for some photos.]