Roy Thomson Hall, the home to Toronto Symphony Orchestra, has seen many great legends and talents performing on it’s stellar stage. On Saturday, it hosted Bobby Mcferrin, the man whose instrument is his voice and that’s all he’s ever needed. From his 1988 hit song “Don’t worry, Be Happy” to his ten Grammy Awards and collaborations with the likes of Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Yo-Yo Ma, Bobby Mcferrin has been one of the heavy weights of music since the 70’s. On Saturday night, he joined the Canadian A Capella quartet, Cadence, first for a workshop in which he began with interacting with the children in the crowed by encouraging them to sing their own name. He suggested that singing your own name for fifteen minutes everyday will give you a completely new outlook. He then performed improvised a song with Cadence and then was off the stage to prepare for the night’s performance, Bobby Meets Toronto, including himself, along with the Torontonian musicians Cadence quartet, George Sawa on Arabic Instruments, Muthadi Thomas on West African Drums, Kyle Brenders on Saxophone, and the dance Michael Caldwell.
The performance, a non-stop ninety-minutes set, included pure improvisational adventures in which Bobby Mcferrin interacted in it’s own unique and “goofy” way with the musicians on the stage, as well as the audience in the hall, some of whom made it all the way on the stage to be a part of an experimentation after Bobby Mcferrin asked for six singers to accompany him and the rest of the musicians. And he got many more than he asked for, including a small kid who earlier stole a segment of the show in which he confidently directed the ensemble by pointing at each member to start playing/singing and then stopping them by the proper hand gesture. For the encore, Bobby Mcferrin came on the stage to answer some questions, and giving an advice to the music teachers and educators in the audience:
“If your school don’t have a music program, start one yourself.”
The genius of Bobby Mcferrin is a pleasure and an opportunity to witness, though I think, with the exception of the Cadence quartet, the clarity and the skill of the rest of the musicians presented on stage with him didn’t match the legend himself and what was required to make a good show into a great one.