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Opportune Performance

By Daniel J. Sharfstein

I have seen the New World Order, and although there were a few technical difficulties, it sounded great. The Harvard-Radcliffe Opportunes, in their New World Order Jam, showed a large Sanders Theater crowd why they are the best co-ed a capella group on campus. A mix of polished vocals, lively choreography and outrageous humor left the audience of groupies speechless, forcing them to employ animal howls, grunts and shrieks to express their wholehearted approval.

From the beginning, the Opportunes demonstrated the comic flair that differentiates them from other campus singing groups. A barrage of jokes about the Gulf War, the plight of the Kurds and President Bush's "New World Order" jolted the audience into full attention.

On the first number, Madonna's "Material Girl," Patty Kornfield's lead sounded unnaturally strained and was occasionally drowned out by background vocals, but she gave a remarkably professional performance. Kornfield remained in character despite an unusual accident stemming from the large "sack of wheat" which dropped on her while she was playing a Kurd in the opening skit.

The next song, "Route 66," slowed the pace of the jam down to a kinder, gentler speed. Clarence Ewing's smooth solo was perfect for this number, and the group's shift at the end into French lyrics added spark to a tune that could have been just another tepid piece of drivel. "Daddy's Home" followed, featuring Toby Blackwell and Kenya Thompson in a rich, mellow duet.

Shifting gears again, the Opportunes performed two pop music numbers. Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" was staged well, and Ewing sang the lead with poise. The group backed Ewing with verve and skill, adding depth and dynamics to the song. Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" featured an excellent arrangement and a quality solo performance from Alyssa O'Farrell. O'Farrell, with ripped stockings and a scraped knee from the malignant sack of wheat, conveyed strong emotion despite her inability to reach some of the low notes.

After "In Your Eyes," the Opportunes sang the hilarious "Hard-Hearted Hannah" and then delved into another string of mellow songs. Blackwell's intense lead in "I Only Have Eyes for You" drew wild cheers from the audience. And Lara Goitein's fragile, beautiful voice in "Breathe" provided a nice follow-up. These songs made the crowd tingle with pleasure but they only reached a capella climax during O'Farrell's riveting performance in "Moondance." Her oozing voice was nothing less than magical.

The first encore, "Heat Wave," featured steamy vocals from Shawna Cornelius and was by far the best encore of any concert this season. The second encore, the ever-popular "Let the Music Play," though not up to the usual Opportunes caliber, was salvaged by Wynne Love's charming lead.

All in all, the Opportunes performed with style and grace, ensuring them a prime spot in any New World Order without musical instruments. The sheer quality of the voices, the sophisticated song arrangements and marvelous staging all contributed to the enjoyment. And the comedy skits between numbers added wackiness to the jam.

The Kuumba Singers, opening for the Opportunes, decided to forego musical accompaniment and performed a dazzling array of gospel songs, jubilees and other numbers in the African-American tradition. Although the male vocals lacked strength, the female members provided some of the most stirring solos of the night. Most notable were Leslie Callahan's passionate alto in "Ride on King Jesus," Jamylle Carter's beautiful soprano in "Ride the Chariot" and Paitra Russell's spectacular voice in "Didn't It Rain."

The groupies employed animal howls, grunts and shrieks to express their approval.

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