Judy, Judy, Judy

In his best book, All the Trouble in the World, P.J. O'Rourke describes traveling up an Amazon tributary in Peru with a boatload of eco-tourists, the lot of them trying to attract the attention of a pod of estuarine dolphins by singing to them. Rather grudgingly, O'Rourke admits:

". . . they actually do like Judy Collins. Michael started it. He sang 'Where the Time Goes' and three dolphin fins appeared. Tom and Susan and I tried 'Someday Soon,' and there was blowing and bubbling astern. Michael and Shelley sang 'Suzanne,' and a minute later, thirty yards off our bow, two dolphins launched themselves into the air with excellent hang time."

Presumably, O'Rourke's sense of the connection between Judy Collins and marine mammals arises from the duet of "Farewell to Tarwathie" she sang with a humpback whale on her 1970 album Whales & Nightingales. It takes a lot of vocal oomph to hold one's own alongside the Collins voice--a leviathan can just manage it, and, maybe, so can the Phoenix Boys' Choir, with whom the thrush is to perform a concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 19, at Gammage Auditorium, Mill and Apache in Tempe.

Ever since the early '60s, Collins has been popularizing the work of such modern songwriters--often before they were otherwise well-known--as Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Randy Newman and, of course, Joni Mitchell, who wrote one of the two songs with whom Collins is most associated, "Both Sides Now"; the other is Stephen Sondheim's "Send In the Clowns." Mitchell also wrote "Chelsea Morning," and the mutual fondness of the young Clintons for Collins' interpretation of the song is what gave their daughter her name. Small wonder conservative O'Rourke waxes snide about Collins.

Don't expect many of these classics at her Gammage gig, however. It's more likely to sound quite a bit like her 1997 Elektra disc Christmas at the Biltmore Estate. The simple live album, recorded for an A&E TV special, features Collins' exquisite, plangent voice, backed up by the Charlotte Children's Choir, singing straightforward arrangements of very familiar holiday tunes--"Joy to the World," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and even "Jingle Bells."

--M. V. Moorhead

Tickets for "Christmas With Judy Collins," available at the Gammage box office and at Dillard's, range from $9 to $29. 965-3434, 503-5555.


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