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By Jeff Petersen | Go! staff
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Posted January 22, 2014
LA GRANDE, Ore. – The Beatles led off the series with a home run. Then coming to bat were shows featuring the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.
Now the Eastern Oregon University Music Department and Chamber Choir is taking on its biggest challenge yet — the Then & Now Hit Shuffle.
Shows will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31 and 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Feb. 1 at McKenzie Theatre. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, and $6 each for group tickets of 10 or more. Tickets are available at Red Cross Drug, Looking Glass Books, the EOU Bookstore and the Mountaineer Market on Adams Avenue.
Advance ticket purchase is highly recommended.
“The show covers a time period from black and white to color, from reel to reel to the iPod,” said EOU Music Professor Peter Wordelman. “If someone hits shuffle on their iPod, they get a little of everything. This concert has that.”
Probably the oldest song to be performed is “Sing Sing Sing” recorded in 1937 by the Benny Goodman Orchestra. The youngest song is “Some Nights” from 2012 by the indie pop band Fun.
Such diversity has proved challenging for Catherine Herrmann-Kossi, a visiting artist here for three weeks, the event’s choreographer and dance instructor. Herrmann-Kossi, from New York City, works at the Broadway Dance Center and dances for Cecilia and Martha.
Herrmann-Kossi is no stranger to La Grande. She grew up here, attended EOU and is now in her third year working with the annual show. She was also part of the ’70s and ’80s shows.
“It’s challenging this year,” she said. “It’s every era and every style, and all have different techniques. Students are having to swallow a whole lot in a hurry.”
Herrmann-Kossi gets high praise from Wordelman.
“She does a great job of capturing different elements of dance from the different eras,” he said.
The show moves fast. In one section, the presentation quickly moves through ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s dance tunes.
“We go from ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ a ’50s tune, to ‘Locomotion,’ a ’60s tune,” Wordelman said, “to ‘I Can’t Dance’ by Genesis from the early ’90s, then to a ’70s tune called ‘Play that Funky Music’ by Wild Cherry.”
The band for the show is led by Luke McKern, a guitarist and electronic musician. Roger Barnes plays bass, Teun Fetz drums and Danny Bailey keyboards.”
“Luke McKern is so creative,” Wordelman said. “He’s a huge part of the success of the show.”
Wordelman said he enjoys the challenge of the hit shuffle.
“We often pair an older song with a new song,” he said. “The most blatant example is we do a version of a medley of ‘I Want You Back/ABC,’ two songs by Jackson 5, the boy band of the ’70s, and pair that with a song called ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ by One Direction, basically the main boy band of today.”
The result? An odd mix of songs, just as you’d get on an iPod shuffle.
This year’s project will be four weeks in the making when it hits the stage Jan. 31. In previous years, the group has had just three weeks to prepare.
“The students have had to work hard on their dancing and singing,” Wordelman said.
It may be hard work, but Herrmann-Kossi makes it fun.
“My strategy is to keep them in a state of play,” Herrmann-Kossi said. “As long as they stay in a friendly environment, they will do a lot.”
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