North Texas Daily

McFerrin improvises with UNT audience

McFerrin improvises with UNT audience

McFerrin improvises with UNT audience
February 06
10:09 2015

Julian Gill / Staff Writer

As the lights dimmed, Bobby McFerrin took the stage in front of a sold out crowd at the Murchison Performing Arts Center Thursday night, joined by the award-winning One O’ Clock Jazz band and Jazz Choir.

McFerrin, wearing jeans and a faded blue t-shirt, gently rested his cup of tea on a coffee table and improvised every sound for the entire two-hour performance.

“It was very experiential,” said TWU counseling major Jolie Shelton.

After singing a spontaneous melody, McFerrin would point to the choir and have them repeat it. Then he would gradually bring parts of the band in with a loud “Just the trombone!” or “Give me a little bass.”

The audience was the loudest instrument at the concert as he repeatedly gave them melodies to sing. At one point, McFerrin perched at the edge of the stage and asked random members of the audience to sing with him.

Brian Heha, the music minister at a Methodist church in Richardson, was the first one to raise his hand.

“Bobby has inspired a lot of what I do with my congregation,” Heha said. “So I really wanted to get a chance to perform with him.”

In one of the final improvised pieces, McFerrin sang and acted out scenes from the Wizard of Oz. He walked off the stage to a standing ovation.

McFerrin is well known for his hit song Don’t Worry Be Happy and multi-platinum album Hush featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma.  With a classical music background, he has conducted the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Rosana Eckert, a senior lecturer in the jazz studies division, collaborated with McFerrin on his 2010 album VOCAbuLarieS and prompted his invitation to UNT.

“Its an honor and a joy to have him here,” Eckert said. “This experience is one for the books.”

Eckert was also called to the stage in the middle of the performance, at which point she pointed out her mother Rosemary in the audience. McFerrin then prompted choir to sing in an impromptu song about her with him.

“We’re happy that you made it today,” he sang.

McFerrin was able to formally meet jazz students as he participated in lectures and Q&A sessions throughout the week.

“I am a perennial student,” he said as he adjusted his dreadlocks. “I actually enjoy coming to universities because you guys are buzzing with new thoughts and information and ideas.”

Featured Image: Bobby McFerrin performs with the One O’clock Jazz Band on Thursday night in the Murchison Performing Arts Center. McFerrin invited audience members on stage to dance and sing with him. Photo by Adriana Salazar – Staff Photographer

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