By MaryAnn Kromer
It's not often the Ritz Theatre sells every ticket for a performance, but that looks to be the case for Thursday's 7:30 p.m. performance by Chicago.
Founding members Robert Lamm (keyboards, vocals), Lee Loughnane (trumpet), James Pankow (trombone), and Walt Parazaider (saxophone, flute, woodwinds) are still performing with the group and playing the music they have composed for the band, known for its unique blend of brass and rock,
When Peter Cetera left in 1985 for a solo career, Jason Scheff replaced him on bass and vocals. Tris Imboden signed on in 1990 as drummer; Keith Howland became lead guitarist in 1995; Lou Pardinini joined in 2009, contributing keyboards, vocals and composing; and noted percussionist, Walfredo Reyes, Jr. is the most recent addition.
Lamm gave the A-T a phone interview to talk about the group's activities and to preview the concert in Tiffin. He was still recovering from jet lag after returning last week from a tour in Asia. Lamm said the band had appeared at least a dozen times before in Japan, but this most recent circuit included Korea, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Hong Kong, and Jakarta (Indonesia). Music tends to stir emotions and memories for people of all cultures.
"I think that is a human phenomenon that is not something limited to the American culture. It's a worldwide thing, a human thing," Lamm said.
As for his first musical composition, Lamm said he wrote "What Kind of Girl Are You?" for a band he belonged to as a teen. The first song he wrote for Chicago is "Wake Up Sunshine," which is on the band's second album. Lamm said it is to be performed Thursday.
"We did a little bit of experimenting with our set list in Asia, but essentially what you'll hear in Tiffin is all the high points of our very long and very popular repertoire," Lamm said. "The songs that Jimmy Pankow and I wrote and that Peter (Cetera) wrote, those are all part of what we would call the high points of that trajectory."
The show also is to include a few holiday selections from Chicago's new Christmas CD. Lamm said merchandise is to be available for sale at the theater. Chicago turned 40 years old in 2007 and celebrated with the release of an anniversary album. Lamm said the formula for the band's longevity is simple. For one thing, they all like and respect one another.
"The guys in the band, including myself have all improved as musicians. We work all the time. We've never stopped touring and we've never stopped recording. It's all because we're so interested, intrigued, by this thing called 'music,' which is such a powerful communication form. It works in wondrous ways," Lamm said. "We really enjoy performing. I wake up every day with some beginning of an idea for a new song in my head. It's never been any different."
The band's website, www.chicagotheband.com, has information about their charity work for the American Cancer Society. The musicians have come up with a unique way to raise money for the cause, and a segment of the Ritz performance is to be devoted to the effort.
"This is the third year we have associated ourselves with the American Cancer Society, specifically to target cures for breast cancer and raise awareness for breast cancer. We essentially auction, to the highest bidder, a chance to come onstage and sing with the band. We do that every night at our shows. Most likely, it will be someone from Ohio who has bid and won a chance to sing with us," Lamm said.
Although the offer includes elements of uncertainty, having a guest vocalist has become a high point of the show. Lamm said the audience loves it, and it has generated a lot of money over three years' time. Lamm said he also is looking forward to performing in a vintage theater.
"They're so much fun to play because they sound great, and the viewing lines are better than in an area. We really enjoy those, so when we can, we have our agent book those."
Chicago's schedule is a busy one. They are to play in Indiana Friday and Troy, Ohio, Saturday. By Monday, they will be setting up for a concert in the state of New York. Lamm said it's all part of what they do.
"The traveling is challenging, but we've been doing it for a long time and we've learned to live with it and get through it. But it's a really wonderful job we have, to play music every night and share what we've been doing our entire lives."
The sponsors for Chicago's appearance at the Ritz include: National Machinery Foundation, First Federal Bank of the Midwest, Laminate Technologies, Clouse Construction, Corporate One, Rowmark, PT Services and James C. Wilson, DDS. Ticket availability is very limited. Prices range from $51 to $101. To learn more, visit www.ritztheatre.org or call (419) 448-8544.
The Ritz Theatre is located at 30 S. Washington St., Tiffin, Ohio. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this program or organization with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. This program is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.