The Kennedy Center Concert Hall had its roof blown off last night in an explosion of sound, light, dance and sheer grooviness. The National Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Pops conductor Steven Reineke, was joined by the talents of vocal group Rajaton as they paid tribute the hit songs of Swedish 70s pop supergroup ABBA.
Rajaton – introduced by Maestro Reineke as one of his favorite vocal groups in the world – is a six member a cappella group founded in Helsinki, Finland, that comprises two sopranos, two baritones, and an alto and tenor each. Rajaton is a pop sensation in its native Finland, where it is renowned for its genre-crossing repertoire of classical to Europop and where it has a double platinum, three platinum, and a collection of gold records, amongst over awards, under its belt. The group celebrates 17 years of music-making this year and continues to spread the joy of their music through touring in over twenty-five countries. Monumentally, however, tonight was the first night that Rajaton has ever performed in not only the Kennedy Center, but Washington D.C., and they make their capital debut with a bang amidst twinkling disco lights.
The name Rajaton is the Finnish word for ‘boundless’ and metaphors the wide breadth of their repertoire. The scope of the performance tonight, however, was much more specific as Rajaton, accompanied by the ever talented NSO, exclusively performed the hit works of fellow Scandinavian Europop band ABBA.
No ABBA concert would be complete without the classics: “Dancing Queen”, “Take a Chance on Me”, “Money, Money, Money”, “S.O.S.” and “Waterloo.” Particularly, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” was delivered with a real punch of enthusiastic high energy by both vocalists and the orchestra as audience members clapped along in unison. Full audience participation continued in what could be argued as one of ABBA’s most famous songs, “Mamma Mia”, as the entire hall sang along to the classic lyrics. Two of the most beautifully performed songs of the evening featured soloists among the six members – “Chiquitita” featuring a duet of female vocals, while solo baritone sang his heart out in “When All is Said And Done.” Their medley of “Does Your Mother Know/The Winner Takes It All/ Thank You For The Music” runs the gamut of ABBA style, from playful, to outright vitality complete with stage-jumping, to classic ballad.
The NSO was featured in its full capacity as it began the evening in both the first and second halves of the performance with excellent symphonic medleys of ABBA themes. Steven Reineke’s usual boundless enthusiasm was put to perfect use here, as he adds to the energy and stage presence onstage with strong conducting, seventies attire, and dancing of his own.
Additionally, the audience were treated to Rajaton’s a capella talents in beautiful renditions of some softer songs including “Head over Heels”, “Voulez-Vous”, and a special, and very excellent version of the lesser known “Fernando.” Rajaton comes out in full a capella swing, utilizing their numbers to provide multilayered harmony, beat, and snare drum sound effects so that six voices suddenly become a full sensory band.
The evening was the definition of fun and casual. Rajaton holds a very special stage presence that is both humble and entertaining. In their introduction of themselves, they praise DC, their long-time colleague Steven Reineke, and even teach audience how to speak some words of Finnish. Finally all six members with their hands high in the air lead the night to a close culminating in disco lights, singing, and dancing to a reprise of “Dancing Queen” as audience members danced in their rows and streamed into the aisles in full swing.
If you are a fan of ABBA, or solid good fun, do yourself a favor and dance on over to the Kennedy Center tonight for Rajaton and the NSO’s final performance of “Rajaton: The Music of ABBA.”
Running Time: Two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
Rajaton: The Music of ABBA plays for one more performance TONIGHT Saturday evening, May 31, 2014at 8:00 PM at The Kennedy Center Concert Hall — 2700 F Street, NW in Washington, DC. For tickets, contact the Kennedy Center Box Office at (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.