FORT WORTH -- Cliburn at the Modern scores again. The series of programs presenting living composers' music performed in their presence has consistently been one of the most entertaining classical programs in town. Saturday afternoon, composer John Bucchino upheld the tradition.
His specialty has been sophisticated songs for pop, cabaret and musical theater singers. Among his friends are the daughter and grandson of Richard Rodgers, as well as plenty of other name performers who keep the old song traditions alive, if in updated forms.
Like Derek Bermel, who preceded him in the Cliburn series this season, Bucchino is a performer as well as a composer. He is a highly effective accompanist, and he appeared as the pianist partner of Saturday afternoon's performers.
Six vocalists took part: Colleen Mallette and Angela Turner Wilson, and Fort Worth Opera Studio members Amanda Robie, Corrie Donovan, Steven Eddy and Ian McEuen. Not only were all vocally attractive singers with a knack for bringing songs to life as brief exercises in musical drama, but also it was clear that they had put in a lot of work in preparation for the afternoon. The 12 songs on the program encompassed a variety of emotions, including pain, anger and love.
Probably the most endearingly sentimental and closest to old traditions was If I Ever Say I'm Over You, sung movingly by Eddy.
The same singer was at the very opposite end of the emotional scale with the raging On My Bedside Table, whose objects awoke far from sentimental memories. One pleasant interlude was My Favorite Things, in which Bucchino took the stage alone to play some piano variations on the popular Richard Rodgers song.
There were plenty of other nuggets, such as the grand This Moment and Grateful.
A good part of the afternoon's success was owing, as usual, to the emceeing of Shields-Collins Bray, whose informal approach and quick wit are always a winner, especially when he's tossing quips back and forth with another quick-witted partner such as Bucchino.
At one point the conversation was interrupted by the ringing of a cellphone. It turned out to be Bucchino's and was quickly silenced.
This drew some laughs (rare for a cellphone ring) and the suspicion that it was a gag.