Lang and company tee up the mood for Cattle Call

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The Blue Grass Rangers perform Miles and Miles of Texas before an appreciative audience Sunday in Brawley. Photo Lloyd Miller

BRAWLEY – As a prelude to the upcoming rodeo, the Imperial Valley Choral Society presented their annual Cattle Call Show 2017 Sunday at Brawley’s Sacred Heart Church Parrish Hall. The show was well choreographed under a theme of an old-fashioned radio variety hour hosted by Bud (Mike Cox) and Lyndie (Sarah Malan), replete with funny commercials, special guests and plenty of western music. The show was written and directed by Deborah Thornburg, who also sang and acted in several high-spirited and comical acts.

The fast-paced show featured the Master Chorale conducted by Denny Lang, the Walker Family, and The Blue Grass Rangers. Danny Walker played guitar and sang, but gave the starring roles to his two young daughters, Emma, 13, and Clara, 11. Emma was lead singer and Clara played the violin and sang harmony with her older sister.

The Blue Grass Rangers featured Luke Hamby singing and playing fiddle, Doug Moore on banjo and dobro, Mike Ram, vocals and guitar, John Lane on bass and vocalists Betsy Lane and Trina Hamby. Anthony Mayor had a cello part in 900 Miles. Donna Marlin accompanied the music on piano.

The second half of the show was dedicated to the singer/songwriter Woody Gutherie. The music of the man, and the story of his life were intertwined as the audience became familiar with the prodigious Oklahoma poet-drifter who left during the Dust Bowl years. The chorale sang, So long, It’s Been Good to Know You as Gutherie’s goodbye song to his windy, dusty home.

As the Chorale’s modus operandi, Conductor Lang had the audience join in and sing along. The first contribution was joining the choir in singing the chorus of Roll On, Columbia, Roll On. The American folk song written in 1941 by Woody Guthrie glamorized the harnessing of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest through building dams. In 1987, it was adopted as the official folk song of Washington State.

The finale was Gutherie’s best known and most loved song, This Land Is Your Land. As the Chorale sang the verses, Lang would turn to the audience drawing them into a full-throated chorus.

The always fun, always lively concert lived up to its reputation, judging by the hearty applause by the audience following acts and at the end. The jovial mood the talented musicians created came after weeks of hard work and dedication. Not a group to rest on their laurels, Monday night was the first night of rehearsals for the upcoming Christmas program, Messiah by George Fredric Handel. The classic will be performed November 30 at Christ Community Church in El Centro. Singers are invited to join the ensemble.