The search for Buffalo's top vocalist is over.
The BPO put out a call for entries to sing with the orchestra on the April 14 "Buffalo Sings" concert. After receiving more than 60 entries, 10 people were selected as finalists to face off live before a panel of judges. Each singer performed "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and an encore of their choosing. The judges gave each finalist personal feedback and then retreated to deliberate. In the end, Chris Vasquez of Williamsville was crowned "Buffalo Sings" champion.
Judges said Vasquez delivered a stirring performance of "Brother, Can you Spare a Dime" for his encore. Vasquez is 49, and teaches English as a Second Language in the Buffalo Public School system. He is a native of Williamsville, and holds degrees from Tufts University and from New England Conservatory of Music. He received the prize of "Best Singer" from the NYC Argentine Consulate International Tango Competition and was a finalist in the Medellín International Tango Festival in Colombia.
Sherrie Charles of Lancaster was the runner-up. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Charles has lived in Buffalo for 22 years. She has sung gospel all her life, and has toured internationally with her family band, Carribean Extravaganza. She runs Future Cool Appliances, which helps low-income individuals acquire quality reconditioned and used appliances. She is also the mother of Shemika Charles, the Limbo Queen, who is in great demand nationally for NBA halftime shows and for TV shows. Charles selected George Gershwin's classic, "Summertime," as her encore.
Judges included MaryKate O'Connell of O'Connell and Company; Adam Luebke, Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus director; Buffalo-based recording artist Drea D'Nur; BPO bassoonist Max Pipinich; and BPO Principal Pops Conductor John Morris Russell. A crowd of nearly 250 gathered in Kleinhans' Mary Seaton Room to support the finalists.
Camryn Clune of Amherst was named the "Buffalo Kids Sing champion." Camryn is a student at Christian Central Academy and starred in "In the Blink of An Eye," a highly acclaimed, locally produced film about heroin addiction. She has performed the national anthem at numerous events in Western New York. She is also the founder of Backyard Broadway, an association of performers that raises money for families in need, and a correspondent for The Buffalo News. For her encore, she selected "Another Life" from "The Bridges of Madison County."
Raffi Wright of Clarence was the runner-up. Raffi is a senior at Clarence High School, and plans to study vocal performance in college. He has been a mainstay in the Clarence drama department, with such roles as The Phantom in "Phantom of the Opera" and Igor in "Young Frankenstein," for which he won a Kenny Award. Raffi selected the energetic "Orange Colored Sky," made famous by Nat King Cole.
Vasquez will perform with the BPO at the "Buffalo Sings" concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 14, at Kleinhans Music Hall. The concert is part of the KeyBank Pops Series and will be conducted by BPO Principal Pops Conductor John Morris Russell. The concert includes performances by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, Buffalo Gay Men's Choir, the Crescendon'ts of Canisius College, vocalists Michele Ragusa and George Brown, and an audience sing-along.
Clune will perform with the BPO at the "Buffalo Kids Sing" concert at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 15. The concert is part of the BlueCross BlueShield BPO Kids Series. Stefan Sanders conducts this concert, which also features the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, the choirs of Amherst High School and Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, and vocalist Leah Witig, who is also the narrator for the BPO's Music for Youth concerts. Free pre-concert activities begin at 1:30 p.m.
Tickets for both concerts are available by calling 716-885-5000, visiting bpo.org
, or going to the box office at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle.