Pollak Experiences a “Doo Wop Explosion”

Doo Wop ExplosionPamela and Charlie Horner brought doo wop to Monmouth University on Saturday night, Feb. 20, with their show “A Night of Acappella Harmony: Doo Wop Explosion.”

Doo wop is a style of music that involves singing nonsense syllables. “Doo Wop singing reached its heyday in the 1950s. Inner city kids hung out on the street corners. They often didn’t have access to musical instruments or music lessons,” a spokesperson for Monmouth’s Center for the Arts wrote. “But they could blend their voices together in harmony.”

Not many millennials, let alone college students, have ever been exposed to this style of music, so on opening night, there were more baby boomers in attendance than anything else. And what a shame that was! The Horners began the event with a few words on the background of doo wop and acappella. Charlie Horner explained that “doo wop is, in its purest form, acappella.” 

After the opening words, the night began and ultimately ended with Re-Memberthen, a group that came together in Philadelphia in 2011. About six groups and two solo artists headlined the event. The Horners came in between each act with words of appreciation for the audience, artists, and vocal harmony.

Each act was charming in its own way, whether that be in banter amongst members or flirtatious jokes with the well-dressed women in the front row. Because these groups were based rather locally, many of them came on stage and had fans and friends in the audience.

The show stopper, however, had to be the tear-jerking virtual performance by Quiet Storm and De’Sean Dooley. Quiet Storm is another Philadelphia group that formed in 2007 and Dooley is the grandson of Sonny Til, whom was one of the founders of doo wop music and R&B’s first vocal group, The Orioles. Unfortunately, Dooley was out of the country and could not perform in person but a video was prepared ahead of time. Backed by Quiet Storm, he performed two songs by the Orioles that led the audience into an almost stunned emotional silence. “Crying in the Chapel” especially earned a round of applause and sniffling.

During intermission, not a single soul wanted to leave their seat. The atmosphere created by the performers and emcees was nostalgic and peaceful. Each act seemed right at home on stage and this made the audience feel comfortable enough to cry, smile or laugh. The experience was an “explosion” of expression, which is what music truly is at its most basic form.

Although the tunes were thrown back farther than even Yogi Berra could catch, the audience was smiling and engaged throughout the entire four hour-long experience. This is no easy task, but the Horners are known for putting on a great show. The married couple formed Classic Urban Harmony LLC in 2008 in order to preserve the legacy of the music style they both hold close to their hearts. Our favorite musicians today received their inspiration from the groups that were formed on the street corners. The sound and passion for music that was found on those street corners is sacred to artists that continue to perform and credit doo wop. In fact, Re-Memberthen opened their first set by promising to bring the audience “back to the street corners.”

“The versatility was cool,” University freshman, Ny’elle McMillon, commented as she left Pollak Theatre. “I really loved the show. I’m an old soul anyway, but it was great to see and hear the history of doo wop music, and it’s amazing to know that some of the performers are actually from our area. I can’t wait until next year!”

This style of music isn’t completely lost on the youth. It’s hard not to appreciate the music style for its roots and simplicity. Doo wop and acappella provide a warmth that a concert and surround sound speakers cannot. For these artists, their voices and souls are their instruments and they play them masterfully. Though it is not as popular today, it is important to remember and respect where music originates. From doo wop came jazz, blues, R&B, and even rock and roll. I recommend each and every Monmouth student get out there and try doo wop!

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University