Wednesday, July 24, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: The RockNRoll Chorus (Orlando, FL - 7.23.13)

(Photo courtesy of Joe Cantaffa)
The RockNRoll Chorus 
(Orlando, FL - 7.23.13)

High-energy music 
blasted over a monstrous 
sound system while 
dazzling images
flashed across the
Hi-Def screens —
just another arena-
style date on the
RockNRoll Chorus
2013 summer 
U.S. concert tour.

"Nothing great ever started out as a reasonable idea" — final words of wisdom and encouragement offered by director and producer Joe Cantaffa as he ushered the group of 20 fabulous-looking, professional young singers from the vocal warm-up room and onto the mammoth concert stage at Orlando's state-of-the-art venue, Full Sail Live.

The brainchild of high school music teacher and entertainment biz insider, Joe Cantaffa, the New Jersey-based  RockNRoll Chorus was formed in 2007 — and in the immortal words of AC/DC, "It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll." Cantaffa recalls that in the beginning, the project merely was "a grassroots effort — hungry kids in cutoffs and T-shirts, operating with minimal resources." Furthermore, the group's first "season" offered the aspiring teenage singers only a handful of live performance opportunities. Today, their schedule has morphed into full-scale national summer concert tours.

"I wanted to create a project in a non-academic environment for high school kids who are looking to pursue a career in the performing arts," Cantaffa reflected as we stood backstage in Orlando discussing his bold vision. "But for the kids pursuing other professions, this is as close to the big leagues as they'll ever come. And they'll always remember that summer they spent on the road with The RockNRoll Chorus."

Never intended to reflect any one particular high school, the seasonal cast members represent various high schools in the New Jersey area. Cantaffa states that the project is meant to "exceed the limitations of school." Ranging in ages from 15-17, would-be members face a stringent audition process — culminating in an ensemble that boasts the best of the best.

Currently touring in support of their latest record, Listen Like This, the 2013 summer outing is taking the troupe from Baltimore to Cleveland to New York, Boston, Charleston, Savannah and beyond — including tonight's show in Orlando.

Like any other bona fide rock concert tour, the 30+ entourage that includes 20 performers and an 11-member administration and production staff, enjoy all the perks — a luxury tour bus, swanky hotel and backstage accommodations  and of course, performances at top-caliber venues throughout the country.

The group's tagline is straight and to the point — "No instruments. Just voices."  But if you think you're gonna miss anything by their super-stripped-down, "less is more" a cappella approach, you'd be dead wrong. From vocalized guitar parts (distortion effects and all) to beat box techniques to the soaring, layered voices, this was a no-holds-barred rock and roll spectacular.

Opening tonight's 75-minute onslaught with a mighty rendition of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name," RockNRoll Chorus members hit the stage rocking. In addition to original material, the group also laid down a smorgasbord of classics — from such high-octane favorites as Journey's "Separate Ways" and "I Want You to Want Me" from Cheap Trick to Mötley Crüe's power ballad "Home Sweet Home" and the show-stopping Fleetwood Mac standard "Landslide."

These kids are living the dream — rockin' like Dokken 'til the break of dawn, for sure. I was blown away completely, not only by their impeccable musical talent, but also by their world-class professionalism. Each one of them oozed self-confidence, but without arrogance — refreshing indeed. But fear not, moms and dads — despite the fun factor, these young performers are kept under the watchful eye of equally professional adult chaperons at all times. They also remain  protected from worldly harm by my new hero, ace industry veteran, Rex "The Doc" Smith.

In sum, The RockNRoll Chorus delivered a top-notch production while prepping a bumper-crop of up-and-coming stars for their most certain futures in the "big league." Kudos to cast and crew!

-Christopher Long
(July 2013)

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  1. Thank you Chris! Your words carry great weight with RNRC, cast & crew alike. I think, when all is song & done, & I listen to their CDs, after 7 years I am still amazed that it's no instruments, just voices!
    I will save this review to my daughter's scrapbook. She toured with RNRC for 5 years, performed @ Full Sail, fell in love with the campus, & will graduated in September with her Masters. Yep, it's a wonderful life!

    1. Thank YOU, Carolyn. Congrats to your daughter. BRAVO!