Fresh from a strong, runner-up finish at “The Sing-Off” competition on NBC TV, the Dartmouth Aires came to Portland on Sunday afternoon for a rousing performance at Merrill Auditorium.

The Aires are a long-standing, all-male a cappella singing group from Dartmouth College who have definitely ridden the wave of renewed interest in their form of tuneful entertainment. They especially caught the eyes and ears of local fans because of the spirited presence of Michael Odokara-Okigbo, a young man from Portland who often sings lead with the 15-member group.

Odokara-Okigbo began his singing career with the Boy Singers of Maine and went on to form a charitable foundation to which a portion of the proceeds of the concert were dedicated.

City Councilor Jill Duson led the way to the Aires’ performance by awarding the group the keys to the city and reading a proclamation that officially made it Michael Odokara-Okigbo Day.

Speeches and presentations done for the moment, the Aires rolled to center stage for a powerful rendition of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard,” with the man whose day it was up front and ready to rock.

Members — some in conservative blazers, others in loud, checkered jackets and exhibiting playful, caps-on-backwards attitudes — incorporated a good deal of cornball humor, exaggerated pantomime and over-the-top choreography in selling several of their tunes.

Numbers that got them to “The Sing-Off” finals, such as “Higher Ground” and a medley of Queen songs, were a delight to watch unfold as well as hear.

A singalong was encouraged for “500 Miles” and singers occasionally jumped down to mingle with the appreciative crowd as they told their musical stories.

“Calling My Children Home” proved the group still vocally spellbinding, even when not engaging in all the theatrical antics. “Up the Ladder to the Roof” was another highlight, as was the soulful finish, with Odokara-Okigbo out in front, on “Shout.”

The Boy Singers of Maine, in contingents of younger and older members, opened the show with a few selections. The older boys, known as the Lower Octave, were excellent on a multi-layered take on “Kalinka,” while the youngsters shone on “Hotaru Koi” — but were upstaged by one of their members who had the crowd chuckling at his efforts to coordinate his moves with the other members.

Odokara-Okigbo capped off the very feel-good afternoon by presenting a check for $1,000 from his Mugadi Foundation for a scholarship for The Boy Singers.


Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.