Topeka singers showcase talent

Natalie Davis sings “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.” Davis narrated the TFS Showcase on May 16.

Ryan Thompson

Topeka Festival Singers presented the season-closing TFS Showcase at White Concert Hall May 16.

As the name suggests, TFS Showcase is an annual event showing off the best Topeka Festival Singers has to offer. The singers performed songs from stage musicals such as “Once Upon a Time” from Mel Brooks’ “All American” film soundtracks,  “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” and the world of pop music, such as Billy Joel’s “She’s Got a Way.” TFS Showcase was sponsored by The Trust Company of Kansas.

In addition to group performances of 36 singers, the event also boasted 13 solos from of the group’s exceptional talent pool. Among these performances was Natalie Davis. After an intermission, Davis opened the second half of the show by performing “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” by one of her favorite composers, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Davis also narrated the event.

The Topeka Festival Singers is an auditioned choral ensemble formed in 1984. The singers present four major shows each year and throughout the group’s career, it has toured Europe and performed at the American Choral Directors Association regional convention. The Topeka Festival Singers also award a vocal music scholarship to Washburn University annually.

Kevin Kellim, professor of music at Washburn University, directed the singers and has been director of of Topeka Festival Singers since 1987, just finishing his 29th season. Kellim was a high school director when he was asked to become director of the group.

“I was thinking of getting out of music when [this opportunity] came along,” Kellim said. “I gave it a lot of thought and decided this is what I’m good at.”

Among the singers are 11 former Washburn students of Kellim. Kellim is currently the director of the Washburn Choir and Washburn Singers. These include solo performers Jessica Crowder, a soprano who performed “Fair Robin I Love” by Kirke Mechem from the opera “Tartuffe,” and Erica Seago, an alto who performed “Someone Else’s Story” by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus from the musical “Chess.”

The singers performed to live music from a number of instrumentalists. Mark Pudwill, organist and medical director of the laboratory at St. Francis Health Center, accompanied the singers. Instrumentalists included Washburn music faculty, such as Craig Treinen, saxophone, and Michael Averett, trumpet, as well as Washburn students Guillermo Rodriguez, saxophone, Cale Paquette, saxophone, and Meaghan Hartley, clarinet.

TFS Showcase honored Gene Earl Floro, who died March 5. Floro served on the Festival Singers board of directors as marketing director.

“I consider [Floro] a good friend,” said Kellim. “He was a great supporter of the singers and a real fan.”

Topeka Festival Singers are now selling season tickets for the 2016-2017 season, which begins this fall. Tickets for individual shows, beginning October 3, 2016 and ending May 15, 2017, are also available for purchase.