The tremendous popular appeal of XCOR, Venezuela’s premier vocal band, was easy to explain: The ensemble vivaciously sang salsa, pop, bolero, jazz, reggae and rock. Presumably, the group is called a “Vocal Band” because besides singing a cappela, it incredibly simulates band instruments: guitar, horn, drums, cymbals, etc.
The singers enhanced their performance with foot-stomping, finger snapping, swaying and swinging; occasionally, they whistled or capped their hands over their mouths to produce melodious sounds, often asking the audience to be interactive with their rhythmic clapping.
Forming a line were, from left to right, tenor Jose Gregorio Moncado, contratenor Guillermo Mejia, bass Eliezer Arrieche, tenor Alejandro Level, tenor Andres Heredia who conducted and introduced each number with spicy humor, and baritone Alejandro Fleitas. The first and last in the line moved the least; presumably in high concentration with the bass sounds being produced vocally, those at the center virtually danced throughout as they sang.
I have never heard a livelier more spirited, energetic and spirited ensemble; what vitality! Among the selection were the Afro-American Slave Song Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, Nat “King” Cole’s Straighten Up and Fly Right, Manila, Manila (this drew prolonged applause), a Michael Jackson Medley, the reggae Cumbia Be Loved by Bob Marley, and various Venezuelan pop songs. Being an old-fashioned traditionalist, I enjoyed most Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Only You for their standard melodiousness, the latter rendered with flair and engaging, deeply moving emotion by soloist Heredia.
What fabulous entertainment the concert was! A fairly good audience turned up despite the short notice of the ensemble’s arrival and the horrendous traffic! Shouts and clangorous applause ensued after each number; the standing ovation was followed by still another rousing song.
Cultural Center of the Philippines president Raul Sunico, himself a fabulous concert pianist who once played Rachmaninoff’s four concertos in one evening without scores, gave introductory remarks. So did Fidel Calalang, likewise the fabulous conductor of the University of Santo Tomas Singers described as “Choir of the World” while on a concert tour abroad. The ensemble jointly presented the XCOR with the CCP. Manila is XCOR’s first Asian venue, and its members claiming to be enjoying Filipino hospitality hugely, will be spending their first holidays here away from home!