Civisca Gets Opera House Crowd Singing

FREDONIA – Crooner Michael Civisca returned to his professional singing career, after an extended leave of absence, Saturday evening, and he entertained an audience at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House with songs from the Great American Song Book.

The music is the main thing, at a crooner’s performance, and there was plenty of the best of that: ”Old Black Magic,” ”Paper Moon,” ”Honeysuckle Rose,” ”Ain’t Misbehaving,” and many more, rolled off the stage, to the delight of the fans in the audience.

Civisca was dapper and handsome, and while he apologized for having gained a few pounds since he retired, he hid them well. He is a song stylist, like the more famous crooners: Sinatra, Crosby, and others. He isn’t a song technician.

Nonetheless, he sold those songs to a crowd which was more than ready to buy them. He had extraordinary help from the excellent Mike Jones trio, consisting of Jones on piano, Danny Ziemann on bass, and John Bacon Jr., on drums. Each of them was a fine musician, and Jones’ fingers roamed over the keyboard at lightning speed, changing time signature or key or tempo with enormous sensitivity to the singer’s choices.

Perhaps the only negative of the evening was that the singer seemed a bit stressed. His banter with the audience seemed a bit strained at times, and there was a tautness in his voice which was noticeable. He used a handkerchief to mop his brow on a regular basis, he turned a song over to the performance of the trio a bit more often than might have been, and it occurred to me he might be battling a cold or a seasonal allergy.

If that was the case, it in no way damaged the effect of the evening. Members of the audience clearly recognized virtually all of the songs, and some sang along a bit more freely than one might have wished. Still, there was a sense of good times there, which made for a most enjoyable evening of music.

The next performance at the 1891 Fredonia Opera House will be a live simulcast from the stage of New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House, of the opera ”Eugene Onegin,” by Tchaikovsky. That will take place at 1 p.m., today.