A Night with Bobby McFerrin

Photo by Phil Farnsworth

Article By: Lisa Occhino

The BPC was packed from wall to wall, front row to balcony last Thursday for the sold-out “Sing Song with Bobby McFerrin” concert.

You know how it goes: the room is filled with light chattering, everyone is anxious for the show to start, then the house lights dim and the announcer guy reminds us not to videotape the performance and whatnot.

The audience simmers down as a flood of Berklee students walk out in a single-file line from the left wing of the stage and take their seats arranged in a semi-circle.  After all the singers were seated, Bobby McFerrin walks out and everyone in the audience simultaneously bursts into applause. Decked out in a T-shirt and jeans, the 10-time Grammy Award-winner sits in the center-stage chair with his set list on his left and water bottle on his right, ties his hair back, and begins scatting in a mixture of deep bass and falsetto with amazing accuracy. While creating this polyphonic effect, he makes unique percussive sounds by tapping on his chest and using his mouth and microphone in inventive ways.

After his incredible introduction, he gradually cues in each section of singers, starting with the basses, tenors, and vocal percussionists on the left, moving along to the altos and mezzo-sopranos in the middle, and ending with the sopranos on the right. Each section follows his lead and does a great job of maintaining their part as Bobby scats over them.

The performance was rich with audience participation, beautiful solos and harmonies, amazing vocal improvisation, and a cappella arrangements of jazz tunes at about 400 bpm (just kidding, but they were pretty up-tempo). This was definitely one of the most unique concerts I’ve ever seen, and it was well worth attending.

At the end of the concert, Bobby left us with these words: “Singing is good for ya. Music is good for ya. We’re on a mission – you gotta do it.”