Articles by Rita Charleston

Crossover quartet blends four unique voices

The classical crossover quartet comprised of the Swiss tenor Urs Buhler, baritone Carlos Marin of Spain, French pop artist Sebastien Izambard, and American tenor David Miller first came together in 2003, the culmination of an exhaustive search by music producer Simon Cowell to find four singers of distinctive individual gifts who could, as a group, create musical magic.“Simon wanted a group that he could enjoy listening to, and scoured the planet looking for a group of guys whose voices and personalities would blend well, and whose work ethic would be over the top,” said Miller. “And so here we are today, nine years later, and known collectively as Il Divo.”But it took some time to work out the kinks, said Miller, now joining his fellow Il Divo members in a world tour that will take the stage at the Mann Center on June 9.“In the beginning, our voices and our temperaments didn’t mesh, but the work ethic was always there,” added Miller. “And eventually we learned how to blend our voices and ourselves, and throughout the process we were able to pair that with what we call our locker room sense of humor [and] that has helped get us through the most stressful times.”Although from different backgrounds, English is the language that has become their main mode of communication. “Everyone’s vocabulary has gotten up to speed, although we all speak a smattering of all other languages in which we sing — mainly French, Italian and German,” he said.Indeed, when Il Divo first emerged, the group presented a problem for those who felt a need to pigeonhole their music. Was it opera? Pop-opera? Musical theater?“Actually, we don’t touch an operatic repertoire,” Miller said. “Purists would have our throats if we did. We have varied backgrounds, from doing opera to musical theater. But I think we are the originators of the term pop-opera, and one of the forerunners of the classical crossover genre. We have taken our four individual styles and experiences and tried to blend them seamlessly so that’s you can’t really quantify exactly what we do. But we, and our audiences we hope, do seem to enjoy it all.“Suffice it to say,” Miller continued, “we are not like anyone else. Others have tried to copy what we do, but there’s something quite unique about the combination of our voices and the style in which we present our songs.”With more than 25 million albums sold so far — including 150 gold and platinum discs, and the only crossover classical album to date — Miller said the only challenge the group faces is to communicate effectively with its audience.“I think that’s our primary responsibility,” Miller explained. “Our main priority is to convey the sense of emotion of the song we are singing. There is, of course, a certain comfort in singing in the language of the country we are visiting. But once you start listening to the lyrics you are not in your emotional space. So we make sure we sing in several languages to avoid that from happening.”The response to their music has been overwhelming, Miller said. ”In the beginning, nobody thought the huge success we are enjoying today would happen. We were simply groping in the dark. But it worked. And now, we’re just trying to continue to evolve and bring something new to our audiences. I think that’s really our biggest challenge.”For times and ticket information, visit

Rockin’ reprise of Buddy Holly’s music, life story

It’s been seen by millions around the globe, and now Philadelphia audiences get to relive the magic of the music of Buddy Holly, the brilliant musician who changed the face of popular music and paved the way for the next generation of rock ‘n’ rollers.With Christopher Sutton in the title role, Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story continues at the Walnut Street Theatre through July 15.The story follows the superstar’s meteoric rise to fame, from his humble country music roots to the top of the record charts, to his untimely death in a plane crash in 1959.Sutton is no newcomer to the role of Buddy Holly. A three-time Barrymore award nominee for Blood Brothers and Singing in the Rain, he won the award for The Buddy Holly Story in 1999.“And it feels so good to be back,” Sutton said. “I’ve done the role in several other theaters since playing it at the Walnut, but this production really captures my heart.”In fact, Sutton added, acting in general captured his heart ever since he was a little boy. “I always loved reading, and when I discovered and read Shakespeare as a kid it made me want to become an actor. I liked the chameleon aspect of acting, and this show at the Walnut allows me to do just that.”Although Holly’s music became popular in the ’50s, and Sutton admitted to just being in his mid-30s today, he nevertheless grew up with the music of that era — thanks to his parents who had all Holly’s records and played them all the time at home.“I still love the music, and so do audiences, which I think is one reason why they keep coming back to see the show,” Sutton said. “There’s truth and honesty in the show, and a joy in the music you can’t help but love and react to.” In the audience, Sutton added, “we have 12 year olds who never heard of Buddy Holly, and 90    year olds who will never forget him. They’ll all be dancing in the aisles once they hear such classic favorites as Peggy Sue, Oh Boy, Maybe Baby, That’ll Be The Day, La Bamba and others.”Sutton, himself a musician as well as an actor, is a great admirer of Holly’s music and his life‘s story. “I think Holly was way beyond his years as far as the music he wrote. The songs are almost like poetry, and so powerful that you wouldn’t think someone so young could have written them.”And even at the time he was writing and performing, Sutton added, “Holly was so idolized by so many that even the Beatles took their name because they admired Holly and the Crickets so much.”In this show, Sutton will be acting, singing and dancing, as well as joining other actors on stage making music. There is no orchestra pit in this show. Rather, Sutton said, “when you hear the music of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, it’s just me playing the guitar, another actor on the bass, and another on the drums.”Over the years, Sutton has won several other awards, and appeared in many shows, including the national tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Me and My Girl, Carousel and others.“Of course I have favorite roles, but I will say this one is right up there on my list, mainly because Holly was a real person and I find doing roles like that very interesting and a lot of fun,” Sutton said.For times and ticket information, call 215-574-3550.