Vocal group Four Freshmen to bring big band sound and jazz harmonies to Amp


A good song is a good song.

“I think anyone can agree on that,” Bob Ferreira said. “If it’s lyrically relevant and it catches you melodically, it doesn’t matter if it was written in 1923 or 2017.”

Ferreira is a member of the Four Freshmen, the vocal quartet that will perform at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Amphitheater, in a concert sponsored in part by Donna and Stewart Kohl.

Ferreira said that he and his bandmates are going to give the audience at Chautauqua everything they can — music from the Four Freshmen’s earliest days, as well as some brand new material.

“We’re bringing back some of the old stuff,” Ferreira said. “And we’re going to be doing some brand new stuff, too: recent recordings and some of our brand-new arrangements. We’re going to run the gamut of the whole 69-year career of this group.”

The vocal group was founded in 1948 and has continued to perform and tour since then, with members changing over the decades. Built on big band sound and jazz harmonies, Ferreira said the Freshmen work from the Great American Songbook while introducing new sounds.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Ferreira said. “We still maintain the Freshmen sound and tradition, but we still bring new songs and new arrangements and new albums. It’s wonderful to be able to do that.”

Ferreira joined the Freshmen in 1992 when the group was looking for replacements. His teacher, Kirk Marcy — then a member of the Freshmen — recommended Ferreira.

“He recommended me, I auditioned, and the next thing you know, I was moving to Las Vegas,” Ferreira said. “I would always joke and say I was going to try it out for a year or two, and if the road didn’t suit me, I’d go back to school and finish my teaching degree. And Aug. 1, just a few days ago, marked 25 years I’ve been with the group.”

The other members of the current iteration of the Freshmen include Stein Malvey, Tommy Boynton and Jonathan Gaines, who joined in 2013, 2015 and 2017, respectively. While Ferreira has seniority in the group, he said their performances are always a partnership — everyone works together and gets a moment to shine.

Ferreira said he loves working with bandmates who are committed to their talents and making their music sound great.

“Just being able to trust in others doing their jobs and making their music the way it should be is probably one of the biggest parts of being a successful leader,” Ferreira said. “At least, that’s what I hope — and I’m finding it to be true. I couldn’t be happier with the sound of this group right now and the effort that these guys are putting in.”

That sound is a nostalgic one — one that harkens back to the Freshmen’s 1940s roots. Ferreira said it’s a type of music that evokes memories, and that’s what he’s come to appreciate the most in his time touring and performing with the Freshmen.

“We’ll sing a song, and I’ll see a guy kind of perk his ears up and put his arm around his lady right next to him, like, ‘Yeah, remember this song?’ ” Ferreira said. “I love those moments. Those are the kinds of things over the years that I’ve grown to appreciate more and more. That’s the impact that this music has.”

Ferreira said it’s easy to take music for granted sometimes, but the connection it has with memory is important. And it’s central to what he hopes the Four Freshmen do with their performances.

“We’re bringing back memories,” Ferreira said. “That’s a responsibility in itself. So I love that — being able to do that and then hearing people’s stories after the show about what this music means to them.”

Ferreira said whether the audience at Chautauqua is familiar with the Freshmen or not, he hopes they leave the concert feeling like they had a good time.

“If they walk away with a smile on their face, if we brought back some memories and maybe created some new ones, that’s all I could hope for,” Ferreira said. “I just want everyone to have a good time, because we have a great time onstage. We’re having a blast, and we hope everyone wants to join in on it.”

Tags : AmphitheaterBob FerreiraFour FreshmenJonathan GainesStein MalveyTommy BoyntonWeek Seven

The author Ryan Pait

Ryan Pait gets a different haircut every summer to keep the people of Chautauqua guessing. This is his fourth summer at The Chautauquan Daily, so if you’re tired of him, that’s OK. He recently graduated with his master’s degree in literature from Western Kentucky University. Don’t ask him about what he’s doing after this summer, but do ask him about the Nicole Kidman renaissance, the return of “Game of Thrones” and what he’s reading.