Four Freshmen veterans at singing the classics Local News

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Four Freshmen

Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013 10:45 am

Four Freshmen veterans at singing the classics BY TOM NETHERLAND | SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER TriCities.com


Time marches on and so do the Four Freshmen.

Neither eras passed nor nearly two dozen personnel changes dim the lights that yet shine on one of the most renowned vocal groups of the 1940s and ’50s.

So catch the spotlight when it casts upon the Four Freshmen in Bristol. Slated to sing the classics on Nov. 12 at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, Tenn. the venerable group of vocalists aim to entertain with songs long heralded from America’s most legendary of songwriters.

“We sing the great American songbook,” said Bob Ferreira, for 21 years the bass vocalist in the Four Freshmen. “We’re taking songs that are timeless standards that belong in any generation.”

Plucked from the pages of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin and so forth, the Four Freshmen en-case the classic with their jazz-shrouded vocals to make the songs jump once more.

“We do ‘Stardust,’ which was written by the great Hoagy Carmichael,” Ferreira said. “It was a hit by Nat King Cole. We recorded it in 2012 and it’s on our new album. We take pride in keeping that sound going.”

The Four Freshmen date to 1948. Jazz powerhouses of the day including Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Ken-ton took note of the hooked-on-harmony lads. Kenton introduced them to Capitol Records, who signed the fresh-scrubbed group. Four years into their formation, hits began to flow like water from a leaky faucet.

“Their first hit was ‘It’s a Blue World,’ in 1952, which brought the Four Freshmen to the masses,” Fer-reira said.

Singles including “Mood Indigo” and “Day by Day” followed in 1954 and ’55. Those set the stage for the group’s signature song, “Graduation Day,” in 1956.

“It was their biggest commercial hit,” Ferreira said. “When we sing ‘Graduation Day,’ people will start clapping. We love to see that people can still remember those songs.”

But take note. The Four Freshmen are distinctly not a group of rusty relics. They’re young, studious of the group’s sound of old and yet able to subtly contemporize a sound that never grew old. Vocal harmony defines the Four Freshmen, and singing never ages.

“The vocal harmonies of the Four Freshmen were always different,” Ferreira said. “It’s more of a jazzy sound. The chords are more complex that some of the other groups of the era like the 4 Lads and The Crew Cuts.”

While myriad vocal harmonies underscore their sound, each member will step out during the show to sing solo numbers.

“Brian (Eichenberger) sings ‘If I Only Had a Brain,’ from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” Ferreira said. “I’ll do ‘Just a Gigolo.’ We like to feature the individual solo talents of each member of the group. It gives the audience a chance to choose their favorite.”

And it lends nuance to their show. Showmanship rides shotgun alongside vocal talent built with an eye to nostalgia and strong songs to make the Four Freshmen fresh despite their 65-year history.

“Maybe people expect to see people in their 70s and 80s up on stage, but we’re up there singing and jumping around,” Ferreira said. “We talk about the history, but it’s all about the music. These are some of the greatest songs of the 20th Century.”

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