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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Voices Stuck in Yule Groove

How many seasonal songs are enough? At what point does the Christmas cup overflow? These questions presented themselves when an At My Place one-night stand was presented by Inner Voices.

These women, singing mainly a cappella but occasionally backed by one or two taped instruments, have become identified with Christmas. Morgan Ames, who organized the quartet, and her colleagues--Carmen Twillie, Darlene Koldenhoven and Clydene Jackson Edwards--have set their careers as busy studio artists. Only at this time of year is their almost magical blend put on public display.

Singing material from their recent Christmas album last Wednesday, they communicated as tellingly as ever their stunning musicianship, whether applied to standards (“Silent Night,” “Ave Maria”), one or two originals (Koldenhoven’s “The Angels Sing”) and new lyrics by Ames to traditional songs.

Twillie’s deep contralto and Koldenhoven’s celestial soprano stood out among many delights. Yet as the hour wore on, the inescapable fact became clear: This repertoire is by definition self-limiting. Many of the lyrics tell a single story in different words; the melodies tend to harmonic monotony. The seldom-heard verse to “White Christmas” is surprisingly amateurish.

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Inner Voices should not allow its glorious groove to become a rut. What’s needed is material that will enable these artists to spread their capacious wings in songs that can remain valid from January through November.

Inner Voices will be heard Thursday at Le Cafe in Sherman Oaks, (818) 986-2662.


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