Simon Estes – The Best of The Best

by Christine Wiese

It was thrilling to be in the Clausen Center this past Sunday waiting for Simon Estes to walk on stage. What a sense of excitement was generated as the crowd gathered. It started with a muted hubbub then elevated by degrees to an almost electric buzz as the clock closed in on 2:00 p.m. Then as the lid was lifted on the grand piano, all noise dropped to a hushed expectancy. No one was disappointed.

If a person had to choose just one word to describe Simon Estes’ performance, it would be “marvelous”. His voice quite literally filled the concert hall and, at times, left the audience too awe struck to applaud. The first such experience happened after his section of “The Lord’s Prayer”. It took a moment or two for folks to come out of the glory he created and return to the present before they could give him the accolade he was due.

Dr. Estes’ gift to this audience included operatic offerings, spirituals, and songs from Broadway. There may be some purists out there who say he should have only pursued opera; that he was wasting his talents on Broadway; should maybe have saved his spirituals for church. But what a mistake that would have been. His Verdi was beautiful, of course, but Porgy and Bess would have been so much less without him as evidenced by his “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin”. Then, too, there was Kern’s “Ol’ Man River” from Show Boat. Maybe it’s because my dad used to sing that song out on the farm that I love it so, but it seemed everyone in the audience did too. Dr. Estes got us in the gut with it. He sang the words for us and with us and left them in us. The result was a resounding standing ovation.

Simon Estes is an amazing man with an amazing talent. The area high school and community church choir members who were privileged to perform with him on “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” are probably more aware of that than anyone else. What a gorgeous conclusion to a concert that went far beyond anyone’s fondest hopes and dreams.