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POP AND JAZZ REVIEWS : Tribute to Carpenters Opens New Hall

October 03, 1994|DON HECKMAN

There was a palpable feeling of nostalgia in the air at Saturday's official opening of the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center at their alma mater, Cal State Long Beach--and an equally powerful sense of loss.

With a tuxedoed and gowned audience, a large orchestra and a fast-paced show, the center premiered with all flags flying.

What was missing was Karen Carpenter.

It says a great deal about the late singer's talent that her voice and visual image on film dominated a program primarily devoted to a retrospective of songs she and her brother recorded in the 1960s and '70s.

Other versions of Carpenters hits ranged from the bizarre ("Yesterday Once More" by Jeff McDonald and Gere Fennelly of the Los Angeles rock band Redd Kross) to the unexpected (the female a cappella group For Real's fascinating take on "I Won't Last a Day Without You").

Rita Coolidge did her best with "Superstar," the American Youth Express performed "Sing" and Richard Carpenter's piano was featured in a medley based on such classics as "Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun."

Herb Alpert, Lalo Schifrin, John Byner, Marilyn McCoo, Freda Payne and several CSULB student singers and dancers also performed.

But the show really came alive whenever Karen Carpenter appeared on film--sweetly youthful in the earliest views, more poignantly world-weary in later years. The most touching moment came when Richard provided live piano accompaniment for a film clip of Karen singing "From This Moment On." Her deceptively simple but emotionally complex reading of the Cole Porter standard underscored the creative sophistication that was emerging in her work in her later years.

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