Five By Design
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Five By Design


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"'Radio Days': A Pops Program Tuned to the '40s"

By Grace Jean
Saturday, February 26, 2005

Down by the Tidal Basin at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Memorial, there's a sculpture of a man sitting by a radio console
listening to one of the 32nd president's famed fireside chats.
Leaning forward with his forearms on his knees, he appears
hopeful. It is a moment of history becoming more difficult to
imagine in today's world of BlackBerrys, iPods and TiVo. But one
group has spent the past decade re-creating the glory days of radio
on the stage in a carefully packaged production for symphony
pops audiences across the nation.
On Thursday, the Minneapolis-based jazz/swing vocal ensemble
Five by Design made its Kennedy Center debut with the National
Symphony Orchestra Pops in "Radio Days." It was one of the best
NSO Pops performances of the season.
The evening unfolded
as a 1940s broadcast,
effectively transforming the
Concert Hall stage into equal
parts radio console and studio.
For two hours, music shared
the spotlight with commercials,
voice-overs and segments of
vintage shows, including a
delightfully funny installation
of "The Swamp Thing,"
courtesy of the sound effects
props onstage.
NSO Associate Conductor
Emil de Cou led the Pops
through several stylish features.
The strings, seated together on the violin side of the stage,
charmed listeners in David Rose's "Holiday for Strings" while the
winds, seated in a big-band configuration opposite the strings,
charged up the crowd with W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues
March." Their combined mellow sound on Glenn Miller's
"Moonlight Serenade" enticed at least one couple to rise from
their seats and dance.
The Pops proved a fine partner for Five by Design singers Lorie
Carpenter-Niska, Catherine Farr-Scott, Kurt Niska, Michael
Swedberg and Terrence Niska, whose harmonies were as solidly
spaced as teeth on a comb throughout the show. They sang impressively on, among others, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,"
"The Trolley Song," "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and an a cappella
"Rosie the Riveter."
The vocalists went through a number of costume changes,
occasionally emerging solo as celebrities of the time: tutti-fruttihatted
Carmen Miranda singing "Tico, Tico" and Betty Grable
crooning "It's Been a Long, Long Time." A poignant rendition of
"I'll Be Seeing You" from the days of World War II resonated for
the 21st-century audience. - Washington Post


Stay Tuned (website streaming, radio play)
Club Swing (website streaming, radio play)
Radio Days (out of print)



Five By Design has been producing pops programming in the symphony and performing arts market since 1994. The vocal quintet has appeared with 200 symphony orchestras and over 600 performing art centers throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The Washington Post heralded Five By Design's Kennedy Center debut with the National Symphony Orchestra as "one of the best NSO performances of the season."

The vocal quintet is one of the few independent artists that have successfully built a fulltime career in a variety of different markets. Whether it is a festival, casino, symphony orchestra, or performing arts center, Five By Design reaches a wide demographics.

Five By Design and WGVU (Grand Rapids MI) are partnering in the development of a PBS television special.