Mood Elevators’ return to city’s summer concert series
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Perhaps no one is hoping more for clear skies Thursday, July 18, than the three-part harmony trio known as the Mood Elevators. That’s when they’re scheduled to perform with a five-piece band as part of Marlborough’s annual Summer Concert Series at Union Common from 7 to 9 p.m. – weather permitting.
Last year, their concert was cancelled due to inclement weather. It’s always disappointing when it rains on show night, according to Ginny Briggs of Marlborough, who founded the trio in 1996.
“This is our eighth year booked in Marlborough, and we got rained out twice,” she said. “It’s frustrating because I schedule all these musicians, who are coming from different locations. They need to know by mid-afternoon whether they should drive to Marlborough or not.”
But when Mother Nature cooperates, the Mood Elevators love performing summer outdoor concerts – especially in Marlborough.
“There’s always a fun, enthusiastic crowd at summer outdoor concerts,” Briggs said. “They bring picnics, it’s relaxing and there are people of all ages. And it’s free, so everybody feels good about coming and bringing the whole family. Also, it’s just really nice for us to be out in the community because this is where we all live.”
Briggs got interested in swing music while singing three-part harmony in a trio in California for a couple of years. After returning to her home state of Massachusetts, she wanted to continue pursuing her interest in that musical style. Briggs, a soprano, was on the lookout for two female altos.
“When I was living in California, I went to music stores, looking for swing music and anything written in three parts for women,” Briggs said. “When I moved back here, I already had a bunch of music and knew what I wanted to do. I started putting up notices on bulletin boards and I scoured the area for theater groups to see if I could find two altos.”
She found Chris Towle of Hudson, and Karen Tyo, who lived in Westborough at the time and now resides in Marlborough.
“I felt so lucky that I found people in my area because I was really looking anywhere I could,” Briggs said.
After rehearsing for a while singing a cappella, Briggs invited a friend to accompany them on piano, Tomi Hayashi.
“When I brought Tomi into the rehearsals, he already knew a lot about this era’s music and had a lot of expertise, so he started writing original arrangements for us in the first year,” she explained.
The Mood Elevators repertoire is mostly 1930s and ‘40s swing music with a few songs from decades earlier and later.
“People recognize the songs we sing because they were heard in old movies that people are still watching now,” Briggs said. “And a lot of the music we sing is from Broadway musicals, which are still presented everywhere all the time. All three of us have done a lot of musical theater, so I think we naturally gravitated toward jazz. It’s a very high quality style of music and a lot of the songs tell a little story. We choreograph and throw a lot of shtick into our songs. Some soloist jazz singers just stand in front of a band and sing, but we like to do more of a show.”
Even young children are familiar with some of their repertoire.
“Knowing there will be kids at our summer concerts, we always sing ‘Three Little Fishies,’” Briggs added. “We’ll ask kids to come up front and pretend they’re fish.”
The Mood Elevators released a CD entitled “Arrive in Style,” which is available at moodelevators.com.
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