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Share Christmas with the Four Freshmen in King Concert Hall
Monday, December 08, 2008

The Four Freshmen
The Four Freshmen are, from left, Curtis Calderon, Vince Johnson, Bob Ferreira and Brian Eichenberger.

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The “2007 Jazz Vocal Group of the Year,” as named by readers of JazzTimes, will take center stage at the State University of New York at Fredonia on Dec.12 for a very special holiday concert.

The DFT Communications Pops Series will present “Christmas with the Four Freshmen” on Friday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. in Rockefeller Arts Center’s King Concert Hall.

Now in their 60th year of performance, The Four Freshmen remain a vibrant musical force on the American Jazz and pop scene, bringing their unique brand of vocal harmony to audiences worldwide.

Although the names and faces have changed a few times along the road, the legendary sound continues today with classic tunes like “It’s a Blue World,” “Mood Indigo,” “Day by Day” and “Graduation Day.”

The Four Freshmen have strongly influenced many groups over the years, including Manhattan Transfer and the Beach Boys, and have 45 albums, 70 singles and six Grammy awards to their credit.

Recently, The Four Freshmen applied their trademark style to 13 Christmas favorites on the CD “Snowfall,” which features “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” “Oh Holy Night,” and “Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland.” Many of these holiday favorites will be featured in the Dec.12 concert.

Jefferson Westwood, director of Rockefeller Arts Center, noted that the center recently reduced ticket prices on half the seats in King Concert Hall for the DFT Communications Pops Series. Tickets for “Christmas with The Four Freshmen” range from $15 to $25, depending on seat location. In addition, reduced pricing is available for groups of four or more.

Tickets are available online at, by phone at 673-3501 (1-866-441-4928) or at the SUNY Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center.

The Four Freshmen’s profound influence on American Jazz and pop began in 1948 at Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind. There, Hal Kratzsch, brothers Ross and Don Barbour, and their cousin Bob Flanigan created a brand new vocal sound. Working without written music and choosing notes by ear, they spread their jazz voicing over a wider range than other groups, and they imitated the phrasing and aggressive feel of a big band brass section.

When band leader Stan Kenton heard the group at the Esquire Lounge in Dayton, Ohio, he immediately recognized their potential. At his urging, Capitol Records signed the Four Freshmen in 1950, initiating a string of hits with “It’s A Blue World.” The sound track of the movie “Lucy Gallant” introduced “How Can I Tell Her,” and the flip side, “Day By Day,” became a hit in days. The Freshmen have produced more than 70 singles and albums.

Wherever The Freshmen went, they won fans and inspired vocal groups. They played nearly every college in the United States, performing in all 50 states and 44 countries from Asia to Europe to Australia. Flanigan retired from performing in 1992, but he continues as the group’s mentor and personal manager. There have been 22 different line-ups, and the current group consists of Brian Eichenberger, Curtis Calderon, Vince Johnson, and Bob Ferreira.

Eichenberger sings the lead part while playing bass, guitar and piano. He got the call to join the Freshmen while studying jazz arranging and performance under Phil Mattson at the School for Music Vocations in Creston, Iowa.

Calderon, is the “freshest Freshmen,” having recently joined the group. Hailing from San Antonio he began his jazz career in earnest playing trumpet at the age of 11. He earned his stripes by going on the road with Russ Morgan’s Big Band. Coming home to San Antonio, he was a regular fixture at The Landing Jazz Club where Eichenberger discovered him. Curtis has been featured on over a dozen CDs including “Live from the Landing,” on Scat Cat Records.

Johnson is an accomplished singer, singing third part harmony as well as playing, bass, guitar and trombone. He received his Bachelor of Music in 1994 from California State University Long Beach and his Master’s degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California in 1996. Before joining the Freshmen in December of 1999, Vince worked as an accompanist, educator and performer, which included performing throughout the world for Princess Cruises.

Ferreira began singing the fourth part harmony and playing the drums for the Freshmen in 1992. Originally from Seattle, his introduction to Freshmen harmony began when he studied with former Freshmen Kirk Marcy at Edmond Community College in his home state. Marcy soon had Bob in his college group Soundsation singing arrangements by The Four Freshmen, Singers Unlimited, The Swingle Singers, and other top jazz vocal groups. Later, while concentrating on classical voice training at Central Washington State, Marcy recommended Bob for an audition with the Freshmen.

Honors for the current lineup include: Jazz Times magazine’s Readers Poll Best Vocal Group, DownBeat magazine’s Readers Poll Best Vocal Group, and DownBeat magazine’s Readers Poll Hall of Fame finals.

The concert, which is part of the 2008-09 Lake Shore Savings Season, is sponsored by Mazany Office Interiors/The Shred Center.

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