From March 2014

Please Help Support Choral Music in Dallas

Dear friends,

It is not often that I use this space for a direct appeal, but since it’s my space and and you’re a supportive audience, here we go.

In 1999, I founded The Helios Ensemble, a consort of professional musicians that produces operas, concerts and recitals in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The group has undergone a number of reincarnations over the years and we are about to set out on a new venture.

In August of this year, we will present The Helios Festival of Voices, a weekend of choral and vocal concerts for your enjoyment. After lying dormant for a few years, this is our first major venture in some time.

I am happy to report that we have a wonderful and active board of directors that is working very hard to make this festival a reality. Future plans include enlarging the summer event into a workshop and institute for professional and amateur singers and conductors.

All of these lofty goals cost lots of money, and here’s where I am personally asking for your help. Please consider making a tax deductible contribution to The Helios Ensemble today. No gift is too small and every dollar helps to employ  fine professional musicians to present great concerts of choral music to our community. Ticket sales raise only a portion of the money needed to stage the kinds of concerts that we present, and that I am sure you enjoy.

Please make a generous, tax deductible contribution to The Helios Ensemble by sending a check to

The Helios Ensemble
C/O Robert Brooks, treasurer
9632 Vista Oaks Drive
Dallas, TX 75243
Your support will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for helping to make great music possible in Dallas!
Kevin Sutton
Artistic Director 
The Helios Ensemble

Hearken Back if you Will…

Everyone who knows me knows that I love vinyl records, and that I have a special affinity to the classic vinyl issued throughout the fifties and early sixties on labels like Capitol. Columbia and RCA, not to mention Verve and Blue Note and the like.

One of my favorite pass times is to troll through used record stores or the usually hidden away bins of records in thrift stores or garage sales to find some wonderful fifty cent treasures. Last night my adventures led to a four dollar shopping spree that netted some amazing finds.

First, for a whomping $.49 I found copy of Ruby Braff and his men playing “A Hi-Fi Salute to Bunny.” Trumpeter Bunny Berigan had died fifteen years before this 1957 issue, and RCA wanted to pay tribute to the great trumpeter who sadly could handle neither business nor alcohol and died broke of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of thirty-three. With an all star cast featuring Braff on trumpet; Walter Page on bass; Steve Jordan, guitar; Nat Pierce, piano; Buzzy Drootin, drums; Pee Wee Russell on clarinet; Benny Morton, trombone; and Dick Hafer on tenor sax, these boys whip out seven signature Berigan tunes that swing to the max. It never ceases to amaze me how well vinyl holds up over the years. This 57 year old record sounds amazing, mono and all!

I have always believed that Don McLean is one of the greatest composer/lyricists in the history of American song. Of course, he’s famous for American Pie, his 1971 masterpiece lamenting the passing of Buddy Holly. (That album contains two other absolutely brilliant songs in Vincent and Crossroads.) McLean recorded rather prolifically in the seventies and eighties, never really achieving the widespread success of Pie.  For a mere $.99 I picked up his ballad collection Tapestry. Even when Don is being silly he has something important to say (think On the Amazon andNarcissisma from his 1972 eponymous release) and Tapestry doesn’t disappoint. McLean has always been able to tunefully and poignantly get to the heart of any matter be it a love song or an encomium. The money tune on this collection is And I Love You So, which became a much bigger hit for Perry Como than it did for its composer.

And finally the gem of the evening, which cost me some big bucks ($1.99), was a 1967 release by the Swingle Singers. What that octet could do with da-ba-da-ba-da was amazing, and this collection of music by Spanish masters is breathtaking. Featuring vocal transcriptions of great instrumental works, the Swingles cover music of Sarasate, Rodrigo, Granados , Albeniz and Soler. The high point is the stunning rendition of the adagio from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. The perfect balance and intonation of this crew that was to inspire dozens of future famous vocal groups like The Manhattan Transfer and the New York Voices, is simply beyond belief and it must be noted that there was no such thing as autotune in 1967.

There are so many forgotten wonders lying around all over the country in boxes of old records. I encourage you to dust off your old turn table and give that old fashioned vinyl a spin. I think you’ll be amazed at what you will discover. Happy digging!!!!