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The big-voiced country singer Wynonna Judd joined the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Associate Conductor Matthew Kraemer on Saturday evening for the start of the orchestra’s 2012-13 pops season. Her heart was clearly in her work.
“It’s too quiet in here,” Wynonna grumbled, during a brief moment of silence between songs.
Wynonna has a great sense of humor, and there were other funny moments, too.
“You look beautiful!” someone yelled from the decent-sized crowd.
“Thank you,” she replied, then deadpanned, “It took me three hours.”
What a kick this woman is. She looked stunning all in black, with that dramatic shining red hair. And she did a beautiful selection of songs, ranging from a heartfelt “When I Fall In Love” to “Don’t Advertise Your Man,” a 1920s blues number adapted and made famous by Bonnie Raitt.
She also did a brief tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch, the BPO’s former principal pops conductor. Wynonna worked with him several times, memorably, and has genuine affection for him.
The night was marred by problems with the sound system. From the balcony, I could catch very few of the words Wynonna sang. At first, the glitch seemed to be with the volume – the orchestra was drowning her out, and it sounded as if she were in a can. Then the volume evened out – though it took six songs – so I am not sure what the problem was. All I know is that it was as if her words were encrypted.
How do you goof the sound in Kleinhans Music Hall? Maybe it would have been better if she had used no sound system and had just sung on her own power, like an opera singer.
She does seem to have the pipes.
Wynonna has no “soft voice.” Everything is full voice. She has power, and she revels in it.
Merle Haggard’s “Are the Good Times Really Over For Good?” struck a tone of passion, not lament, and Tammy Wynette’s “Till I Get It Right” emerged as a song of hope and strength. She put soul into “Ain’t No Sunshine When He’s Gone,” her adaptation of the R&B classic.
The BPO musicians’ skills were woefully underutilized. It grew embarrassing to watch the cellos and violins just more or less vamping. But the orchestra added a lush backdrop to Wynonna and her combo. Her combo, if I understood her right, included her brother on drums, filling in for her husband, hurt badly in a recent accident. (“We’re praying for you, Wynonna!” someone yelled. “Thank you,” she answered.)
The concert’s first half was a joy. The BPO paid its own tribute to Hamlisch with the overture from “A Chorus Line.” John Williams’ “The Cowboys Overture” was cinematic and fun, and Aaron Copland’s ever-popular “Hoedown” had lots of snap and panache.

email: mkunz@buffnews.com