A clear October night, a full moon beckoned those with the urge to display their wild side. They showed up at Windham Performing Arts Center for a concert that featured Master Stroke, a Queen Tribute band, along with the Windham Chamber Singers lead by conductor Richard Nickerson. The show, billed as “A Night with the Choir,” was based on the success of Sean Slaughter’s Queen Tribute Shows at Port City Music Hall. Slaughter, a veteran of the Portland music, scene put together an all-star lineup that promised to rock the house. Master Stroke’s billing was a collaborative effort. “Rick got in touch with me after he saw us at another show and asked if we would be willing to put on this one,” Slaughter said.
In a release prior to the show Slaughter shared, "We have heard so many fantastic things about the Windham Chamber Singers! We are honored and flattered that we have been invited to perform with them! Most importantly, we want to rock Windham!"
Nickerson also commented beforehand, “We are thrilled that we have the opportunity to share the stage with Sean and his band, Master Stroke. We are excited to continue our tradition of bringing the highest quality performers to Windham. This will certainly be the Windham Chamber Singers as you have never heard them before.”
A capacity crowd of every age group packed the house, each with their own agenda. “I was in the choir last year and years prior,” said Derek Barnhouse, a recent graduate of WHS and a fan of Queen. “But I’m here for both. My favorite song by Queen is ‘Somebody to Love’,” he continued.
Janet, another local resident was anxious to see a family member sing along with Stroke. “My grandson is in backup for the choir,” stated Janet. Like others this night she was getting the best of both worlds. “My favorite Queen song is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’,” she shared.
When the lights faded the crowd responded as the Windham Chamber Singers made their way onto the stage. Master Stroke would soon follow. The ear plugs that were handed out at the door proved to be very useful, from the opening musical note until the very end, over two hours later.
During the first set the crowd was transported back in time to the tune of hits that included “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, “Under Pressure”, “Bicycle Race”, “Killer Queen” and “Flat Bottom Girls.” The Windham Chamber Singers presence on the stage was electrifying. And when they were not singing they were moving to the beat. The combination seemed to feed off one another and the fans responded. During the break the hallway was buzzing. Donna, a postal worker was not surprised. “I just saw Stroke three weeks ago and they were amazing then, too,” she said.
After the break, Stroke opened up with “Another One Bites the Dust.” This is all the crowd would need to reignite their senses. Following up with top ten hits that included, “Somebody to Love” and “We Are The Champions”, the show would end with an encore performance of “We Will Rock You” and a very grateful thanks to the Windham Chamber Singers. Together they all lined up along the stage for their accolades.
“The crowd was awesome! This venue is incredible. It’s the largest stage in Maine so it’s the largest I’ve played on. When I first came here I was blown away how beautiful this room is and how awesome the program is. The acoustics are amazing,” said Slaughter.
In regard to having the choir on stage Slaughter said “With Rick and everyone involved in the arts program you can tell they really know what they’re doing. He’s done a great job here.”
“It was such thrills to see months of hard work culminate last night on that stage. There was an amazing energy in the auditorium last night from both the performers and audience. I don't ever remember a concert that had audience members literally dancing in the aisles! It was thrilling to see all of the different age groups come together and bring this music to life. We are so thankful for the support that we receive from our community. Last night was another great night for the Town of Windham,” said Nickerson.
The choir was in total agreement. “I had a wonderful time combining two things that I love, choral singing and the music of Queen!” said junior Libby McBride. She wasn’t the only one. “Performing with the band was one of the coolest experiences ever! I had such a fun time,” said sophomore Anne Stevens.”
”I don’t have anything booked with band right now. This is only our third show,” said Slaughter. Explaining the short time to success, he added, “All the people that play in this band are top notch musicians.”
However Slaughter is playing locally with his other band. “The original band I was in, John Hughes Radio is having a Halloween themed concert at the Empire in Portland on October 28th. There will be a costume party with contest and will show local made horror short films during the 15 minute or so break in between the two other bands, Holy Smoke and Diabligato, that will be playing,” he shared.
Meanwhile, the Windham Chamber Singers are also gearing up for another performance. The winter concert, “An American Family Holiday,” will be held Saturday December 3rd at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The concert will feature special guests Lindsay Mendez and Daniel Strange.