Lady sings

Toni Tennille

Toni Tennille is one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. Another is her husband, Daryl, also known as The Captain—Captain Keyboard, for those who’ve heard the story. In person, she’s witty and charming and utterly down-to-earth. Daryl, too, has a magnetic personality. They were in town doing interviews to promote a show to benefit the Reno Chamber Orchestra, “An Intimate Evening with Toni Tennille” at 8 p.m. Nov. 15. Tickets are $60 to $85 and include a post-concert reception with Tennille. Call 348-9413 for tickets.

What is the purpose of this latest media blitz?

We want to sellout the hall. We want the Chamber Orchestra to have as much financial benefit as possible. Darrel and I are donating all of our stuff. We’re even paying to have the show recorded. We’re not only not charging, but we’re donating to make this concert a really good concert. The Reno Chamber Orchestra is brilliant. They have a new conductor, Theodore Kuchar, who is just amazing. Also, because I’m ambassador for the arts for the state of Nevada, it’s part of my job to support the arts in any way that I can.

Do you think the genre of torch singing has reached a low?

What I’m doing that evening is not all torch songs. They’re what we call the classic standards. They’re what Rod Stewart has been selling millions doing. Not that I think he does them that well. I really like Rod Stewart as a rock singer, but I don’t like him singing that stuff. The first half of the show is basically from the Great American Songbook. The second half, we’ll do a couple of songs that have been requested through my Web site, and then Daryl is going to come out, and we’ll do some Captain and Tennille tunes. We’ve got the whole evening covered, Gershwin to “Muskrat Love.” Some would say from the sublime to the ridiculous.

In the bigger picture, is torch singing poised for a comeback?

I can not imagine Britney Spears singing a torch song. I think it needs the big voices, the voices with lots of range. A torch song is also acting. You have to have subtext going. When someone is singing a line, they’re thinking something else. It’s what they’re thinking as opposed to what they’re saying. Throughout “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man of Mine,” a song I often sing, no matter what I’m singing, I’m thinking what this woman is thinking as she says these lines—no matter how awful he is, I’m staying right here.

Do you think there’s a dearth of that kind of talent?

Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. Just like Daryl says, ‘Where are the Mozarts today?’ They’re out there, but they don’t have an opportunity to express themselves. The great singers are out there. Radio stations don’t play that. They hardly play anything anymore. It’s all programmed by one service that’ll program like 250 stations across the country. The singers are there. The composers are there. But they have no outlet.

How did you end up singing on Pink Floyd’s The Wall?

I used to do backup vocals with a group that was made up of Bruce Johnston and Carl Wilson from the Beach Boys and a studio singer named Jon Joyce. Whenever we were in town at the same time, if someone need background vocals, they’d call Bruce, and he’d round us all up. We did some for Elton John, some for Art Garfunkle. And Bruce called me one day and said, ‘Pink Floyd is going to be in town, and they need backup vocals.' I’d heard of them, but I hadn’t heard their music. I always keep my mind open when it comes to musical styles. So I said, ‘Sure,' and Daryl and I went to Hollywood on a Sunday morning, and I expected to see everyone lying around smoking dope, and everything in disarray, and Dave Gilmore greeted me at the door, and he couldn’t have been more charming. They were so professional, he and Roger Waters, they had that session running like a clock. …That has always been my claim to hipness, Pink Floyd.