Music series kicks off with attitude
By Phil Drew, The Record
September 11, 2002

     "Wait a minute, we just gotta find a shady spot."
Fittingly, Quency Rene and her performing partner, Diane Geddes, are on the road. A good place for two busy musicians - but not for conducting a telephone interview, by cell phone from a car.
        Once they are safely parked in the shade, the call resumes on speaker phone.
"We like to write together and travel together," says Rene. "We have a really
cheeky attitude, and we don't take ourselves too seriously. You never know where we're going to turn up."   They are Alotta Sound, an alliance always on thequest for gigs.
"Everything and anything, I guess," says Rene. "Diane does the booking,and
she's a booking maniac."  "And Quency's the computer whiz," says Geddes, apropos of nothing.
"Seriously, we've been together about four years, and we feel we haven't hit our stride yet."
       A public library program here, a fall harvest festival there; a noon performance in
Capitol Park in Albany, a booking at the Troy Victorian Stroll, a gig at the Hudson-Mohawk Humane Society. They'll make their debut in WAMC's new Central Avenue performance space later this fall.
"This is a blast, the best thing that's ever happened to me," says Rene. "we
have a wonderful personal relationship, and this is a great way to make a living."
       Next week they will kick off a busy fall season for the music programs at St.
Paul's Church in downtown Troy as the opening act of the Tuesdays at Noon free concert series in the church sanctuary.
      Of course, when playing a more genteel setting like a church, they might trade
in some of their brassiness. But elsewhere, they have earned the right to a little hard-bitten flippancy, as they have become among the area's busiest, most ubiquitous performers.

The act is a little hard to define. Latin to country, Broadway standards to jazz
'50s pop hits to quirky originals, "We try to keep ourselves as eclectic as possible and put together a special program for anybody who asks us," says Rene. "We keep changing our repertoire because I get bored. We don't want to be doing the same thing all the time."
       In its essence, Geddes plays keyboard, Rene sings - whatever. With heads full
of material, they read the crowd and go with the flow.
     "I get us into trouble, Quency gets us out of it," says Geddes.
      It befits their divergent backgrounds. A native Albanian, Geddes says, "I played with different pop bands for the last 30 or so years."  Rene's background is more musical theater; a Long Islander with a big voice who studied at SUNY Potsdam, she came to Albany with a state job two decades ago and settled in.  Though once a familiar figure in local community theater, Rene rarely performs
there anymore.  "A theatrical commitment is kind of hard with the time it requires," she says. "I
still get my theatrical jollies in the different musicales we do. I can get a little goofy.  Somebody will come out, a character, and take over a song, and afterwards we'll say, who was that?"  (An upcoming series of dates at Saratoga Public features one of these prepared revues. )
     Their musical careers crossed paths, Geddes says, in a music store in Colonie  Center. "Quency had helped out with a group I was working with," she recalls.  "We had a few contacts," Rene chimes in. "And we struck up a conversation.  We were talking on the phone together one day soon after, and we decided to form a duo. We had no idea we'd still be doing this four years later. We just kind of grab whatever life gives us."  Eventually, she says, the occasional booking "evolved into a full time job for  both of us."
      St. Paul's Tuesdays at Noon program, now in its third year, is principally  classical, but occasionally eclectic, and always informal and free; Bag lunches are welcome. Booking Alotta Sound, says director Jean Foss, means "opening our season on a lighter note."
     Upcoming Tuesday concerts include the chamber trio Musicians of Maalwyck
on Oct. 15, classical guitarist and local favorite Maria Zemantauski on Nov. 19, and a December concert with vocalist and harpist Carlinda Caldecott. Foss is also seeking spring dates for Lyra, a Russian vocal ensemble performing liturgical chant and Russian opera, and early musicians Melrose Five.
     Rene and Geddes will perform "a mix of music, mostly standards," says Rene.
"Some songs related to the fall, some songs about New York City in recognition of Sept. 11. "
They may also take the wraps off some of their growing repertoire of original tunes. "We've written several songs together, and our immediate goal is to put out a CD of our original tunes soon," says Rene.
     Their collaborative technique is, well, unfussy.  "The songs seem to write themselves," says Rene. "She gets into a prolific songwriting mood, gets a feeling, and then comes to me with a whole bunch of tunes. It's not structured at all, not planned. She just walks in with something, and I go, oh my God!"  And then? "I'll listen to them, and a lyric just gets me as I'm listening. The first
song we wrote together just happened very quickly."  In the main, their compositions are "very tongue in cheek. We like to have fun  whether the tune's slow and sensual or just funny. We like to laugh a lot, and we laugh at ourselves a lot."
     And where is all of this heading? They have dabbled a bit in cabaret but otherwise can't seem to say no to a booking. "She's like a dog with a bone!" says Rene of her partner-cum-booking agent. "She doesn't miss a thing."
"I like what we're doing," says Geddes. "I feel it's the best thing that's ever happened to me, professionally and personally." Didn't somebody just say that?  "We're planning on doing some new programs together," says Rene. "We're just planning on finding new avenues to express ourselves."

     Fine. Just pull off the avenue into the shade while you're doing it.

St. Paul's Church is located at 58 Third St. in Troy. Alotta Sound will open the
Tuesdays At Noon concert series on Sept. 17; the concert is free and the church is handicapped accessible. For information, call 273-7351.

ŠThe Record 2002