Cardinalis and KC Aerial Arts Shine in “Our True Colors”

Aerialists perform on silks above a choir .

Cardinalis and KC Aerial Arts perform “True Colors,” arranged by Saunder Choi. (Photo Credit: Kellie Green/Vitalityxposed)

For a rose to fully blossom, for a rainbow to appear, for a child to speak its name with pride…they need the right environment for those true colors to shine. In “Our True Colors: A Tapestry of Love, Loss, and Acceptance,” Cardinalis and Kansas City Aerial Arts presented a program that was both intimate and encouraging. 

Cardinalis, founded in 2015, is a professional choral ensemble associated with William Jewell College. It’s a unique professional/educational partnership, with area professionals paired to exceptional scholars from William Jewell College’s choral program. 

They were joined by performers from KC Aerial Arts for this succinct, hour-long program at Union Station’s City Stage Theater. 

The performance included choral work and solo selections, for an eclectic mix of styles and influences, expressions of love through different lenses. Sections of Juan Olivarez’s poem “What are we?” were woven into the concert. 

Conductor Anthony Maglione, Cardinalis artistic director, worked with KCAA’s artistic director Neil Higginbotham on concept and staging. They created a dynamic show that upended the common habit of singers in a static placement for the duration of the concert. Here, the singers rearranged from song to song in the shifting, multi-hued lighting, staged to highlight the aerialists or soloists. 

To some extent, if you were completely invested in attending a choir concert, the aerialists pulled the attention from the music. On the other hand, performers such as Liv Morrow, who captivated on straps during Sid Robinovich’s “Noche De Lluvia,” made the distraction more than acceptable. 

There were some true gems in this presentation, the best of which was the wonderfully elided work in the performance of Jennifer Lucy Cook’s “For You I Will Be An Island.” Not only was it a gorgeous work of art as an a capella choral piece, but it was paired thoughtfully and beautifully by Meghan Spencer and Evanya Morley on lyra hoop, a large suspended circle. The performance was sensitive and breathtaking, the performers supporting, twisting around each other with epicable trust and grace. 

Later in the program, they paired another duet with Cook’s “They Are Mother,” with Litany Supka and Cassie Stevens on trapeze. Again, Cook’s sound world and the grace of the performers made for an exceptional moment of art.

Of the stand alone choral pieces, the full power of this ensemble was on display for Vaclovas Augustinas’ “Tykus Tykus,” with a heady melody and pulsing rhythm. 

Solo selections were interspersed among the choral works. JD Daniel, a William Jewell alum, gave a performance of their own composition “His Love Whom I Love” and Carolyn Schrock, a William Jewell student, was pleasing on Roger Quilter’s “Love’s Philosophy.” Other soloists included Emma Johansen, Victoria Olson, Kailynn Byrne, Mia Page, Sydney Edie, Jereld Sa’Von Hayes, and a duet by Molly Hon and Megan Moore. 

The performers included Tracy Johnson and Jessica Koebbe on keyboards. An unfortunate production necessity was that the keyboard players were off to one side, piped through a speaker above the singers. From the viewpoint of the audience, this created a sonic disconnect between the acoustic vocals and amplified instrumental, even though the playing was sensitive.

The finale was an arrangement of “True Colors” by Saunder Choi. Originally performed by pop icon Cyndi Lauper, the message of this 1980s number one hit has held up through the decades. Leo Edwards and Cameron Huett were the soloists. Each of the aerialists were brought back on stage to perform a final manuevor on silks during the piece, creating a beautiful, undulating scene. 

It was a thoughtful program, projecting love and support for people, just as they are. 

Reviewed Sunday October 23, 2022. Cardinalis and KC Aerial Arts performed at City Stage at Union Station. For more information, visit kansascityaerialarts.com.

Libby Hanssen

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen covers the performing arts in Kansas City. She is the author of States of Swing: The History of the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, 2003-2023. Along with degrees in trombone performance, Libby was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University. She maintains the culture bog "Proust Eats a Sandwich."

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