by Jim North
Southeast Campus Editor
What do you get when you cross a world-class maestro and symphony with a classic-trained opera singer like Chris Mann? Answer: A “spectacular” performance with a little Led Zeppelin thrown in to keep the audience alert.
Chris Mann, a Season Two finalist on “The Voice” television show performed Feb. 5 and 6 in the Tulsa Community College VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education (PACE).
Besides the backdrop of talent with Maestro Andres Franco and the 70-piece Signature Symphony, Mann was accompanied by skilled pianist, Willy Beaman, in the 17-song program titled “A Modern Masquerade.”
Numbers included “Where Do I Begin” (Theme from Love Story), “Fly Me to the Moon” and “The Way You Look Tonight,” prior to intermission.
Second-half songs began with a medley, “Desert Rose” (Sting) and “Kashmir” (Led Zeppelin), then “Roads” (title from Mann’s new CD) and finally “Music of the Night” (Phantom of the Opera).
The theme for the evening was the “Golden Era of Broadway,” comprised of several numbers made famous by golden-age artists, such as Frank Sinatra.
A rousing curtain call for Mann prompted a rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” making the program one to remember.
The relationship between Franco and Mann goes back a couple of years when they met in Fort Worth, Texas. They have been friends ever since and have mutual respect for their abilities.
In keeping with the theme of “The Voice,” Franco had his version of a four-chair turn: first from his home country of Columbia; next from Fort Worth where he studied music and began conducting; the third from Kansas City as an accomplished conductor; and a fourth turn from Tulsa where he was “stolen” in the battle rounds, so to speak.
Franco spoke of preparation for the two-night performance at the PACE, already having an affinity for the “golden standards” and those of the “Great American Songbook.”
“Every concert is more or less the same general goal: to see people have an emotional connection with the music and to really value music for what it is: the power it has to transform and inspire, to move, and to challenge at times,” he said.
Franco called the concert with Mann “very enjoyable,” adding many were moved to tears.
“His voice is really something else,” he said.
Franco loved the variety in the “Modern Masquerade” concert, citing the “jazzy” arrangements and the showcasing of versatility by Mann as an artist.
Working full-time on the road, Mann has been performing eight times per week in the “Phantom of the Opera.”
Like Franco, he is fond of the golden-age music of Sinatra and others.
He loves finding songs he can connect to and spends time studying backstories of songs that can help him connect with his audience.
He goes on to say, “I like to talk, let people know who I am and what I’ve done in my life … in terms of how I grew up, just to get to know me a little
He likes to weave stories and create impactful moments during his concerts. It helps make things fun, and he adds that finding a running theme is important.
“Then I throw in something because I know there might be some guys who are here. Their wives drove them here, so I throw in the Led Zeppelin … just throws everybody off.”
Mann says he is a huge fan of Tulsa, as he fell in love when he performed here in “Phantom of the Opera.”
“It’s been such a pleasure. The symphony is fantastic and Andres is world-class … to come as a guest artist and have the symphony prepared, crushing these songs, having a ball … then to know I’m being taken care of behind me by Andres … [it] lets me relax and do my job.”
“That is a testament to what they have going on here. I would come back anytime.”
Mann describes his friendship with Franco: both similarly aged in their 30s; both hard workers, having high expectations for the music they make; both love to have fun; and both love coffee.
Mann has appreciation for how everyone involved in the performance brought the songs to life. He says he would definitely “turn his chair,” for the audience at the PACE.
“I love it when an audience is receptive and listening—and they were. That really makes the show much more fun for me—I’d return.”
Mann talked about the
impact of experience and lasting takeaways from his experience on “The Voice,” including how to function well under pressure.
“I deal with pressure a lot as a performer … having been through that extreme example of pressure, makes other situations a lot more manageable.”
He learned by observation from coach Christina Aguilera that she gives 100 percent to every performance, even if it is just a rehearsal.
Mann remembers while preparing for his rendition of “The Prayer,” on competition day, Aguilera showed up for his rehearsal early in the morning—in pajamas.
However, she sang as if she were performing at the Grammy’s in front of millions of people, he says.
“I was really blown away by that. I thought that was a really big lesson. Obviously, it allowed for my career to flourish in a way that I wasn’t able to have before. I’m very thankful for the show.”
As for what Mann would like to leave with Tulsa: “I just want them to know the Tulsa Signature Symphony is amazing. This hall [PACE] at Tulsa Community College is fantastic and there’s stuff going on here. There are three symphonies in town. It’s important for them to know that this one is world-class.”
For more information about acquiring Mann’s new CD, “Roads,” go to Chrismann.com.
The next Signature Symphony performance will feature violinist Victoria Luperi, Franco’s wife on Feb. 27 at 7:30 pm.
Go to Signaturesymphony.com for ticket information or call (918) 595-7776.