Most of us wouldn’t expect to hear lawyers singing. Or laughing.
But when my work on a biography got me looking into the legal challenges of rock music veteran Sly Stone, I encountered both. Ken Freundlich, one of the attorneys currently counseling Stone, has for 10 years been a performing tenor in The Singers in Law, a vocal quartet which rehearses every week and performs at jazz venues throughout the Southland. On Jan. 14, the group will be performing at Vibrato Grill Jazz, Herb Alpert’s tony supper club high above Los Angeles in Beverly Glen.
Freundlich arranged for a group phone interview while the Singers were taking a lunch break during a rehearsal at the Seal Beach home of baritone John Blumberg. Freundlich and alto Linda Hurevitz had driven down from their homes in the San Fernando Valley, soprano Sheri Bluebond from hers in Culver City. They open by singing, a cappella, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” The cell phone can’t do proper justice to the charm and craft of their rendition. Then, they proceed to brief testimonies of what led them to practice both law and music.
“I grew up in a house where my mother was an opera singer and my father was a doctor, so I had left and right brain all the way through,” says Freundlich. “My dad also liked rock ’n’ roll. My mom got up to the point of having an agent who also represented Richard Tucker.” Freundlich played instruments in school and performed in college theater and in jazz choirs but ended up securing dual degrees in law and business at UCLA. As a specialist in entertainment law, he represents, among others, Bad Bunny, Funny Marco, Lyric Find, Pandora, and former members of the funk-rock band War, as well as Sly Stone.
Hurevitz’s musical parent was her father, who sang on the radio in the 1930s and ’40s. “He did both classical and pop, and there was always music in my house, Broadway and Frank Sinatra and jazz, too,” she says. “As a child, I would sing myself to sleep and make my mother crazy. I started performing solos in grade school, and I did musical theater during the summers. When I went off to college, my mother put the kibosh on being a singer. She said, ‘You need to go to law school,’ I think because I was always argumentative.” Hurevitz laughs. “But I think my mother, in those days, just really expected me to get married and be supported by a hubby. After college on the East Coast, I moved to California to get as far away from my parents as I could, to live my own life. So I started law school and also started taking voice and acting lessons and performing with a local musical theater company.”
Just before her last semester of law school, Hurevitz was hired by a band doing swing music from her father’s era, and the dean advised her to take a leave of absence. The leave extended to nine years with the New Deal Rhythm Band, in which she replaced Cheryl Bentyne, who moved on to The Manhattan Transfer. Hurevitz recorded with the band and married its leader, Jerry A. Ranger. “He’s a composer, arranger, and orchestrator, and that’s his real name,” she chuckles. “I wasn’t smart enough to marry a wealthy man. Then one day we decided it was time to get off the road and have a family and a home, and we moved to L.A. Jerry said, ‘One of us has to have a real job,’ so I said, ‘I guess I could finish law school.’ I started at Golden Gate University in San Francisco and finished with the Thomas Jefferson College of Law. I finally became a lawyer in 1987.” As a trial attorney, she practices labor and employment law.
“Neither of my parents was a professional or performing musician, but about the time I turned 8, I was into rock ’n’ roll because it was 1958,” says Blumberg. “Linda and I are almost exactly the same age, and Ken and Sheri are 10 years less mature. My father was a trial lawyer, and my mother was an intellectual, and I was singing folk music and bluegrass and playing the guitar and bass in junior high and high school in Long Beach. I went to college at Cal State Long Beach, and I was going to be a musician, but fortunately or unfortunately, two of my classmates were Karen and Richard Carpenter and another was the great guitar player Larry Carlton, so I’m comparing myself and thinking, ‘I’m dead.’ But I got my bachelor’s degree in music, with a minor in theater, and I also helped launch the campus radio station.”
Blumberg enrolled at Western State University College of Law in Irvine while also hosting a weekly classical music radio program. He went on to community musical theater and became a specialist in professional liability, dealing with medical and legal malpractice. He also spent four years in the cast of the TV series Divorce Court, a lawyer playing a lawyer. His wife is a professional actress. He has also served as a cantorial soloist for a small Jewish community.
Bluebond was in musical theater in high school and also taught singing at Hebrew school. But “although I enjoyed performing, I’m very risk-adverse when it comes to finances,” she points out. “I didn’t want to try to support myself as a musician, but I sounded good in minor keys and wanted a steady paycheck, so I decided to become a cantor.”
Bluebond started at UCLA in Jewish studies but abandoned hopes of becoming a cleric when she realized that “I would just be there to sing. So I decided to revert to my earlier plan of going to law school, which I’d come up with when I was 4 years old and wanted to be president of the United States.” She outgrew her presidential aspirations, too, but graduated first in her class from the UCLA School of Law. After 15 years of litigation, she became a federal bankruptcy judge, while continuing to sing in synagogue choirs.
In 2009, Gary S. Greene, a veteran attorney with deep roots in music, led the first rehearsal of the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic. Legal Voices was created two years later as the vocal complement to the orchestra. The two ensembles performed a semistaged production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury in 2016, with the bewigged mayor of Beverly Hills cast as the Learned Judge.
Blumberg, Hurevitz, and Freundlich were among the original members of Legal Voices, but by 2013 they were eager to form up as the separate Singers in Law. “All three of us had gone into law with musical backgrounds, and we had all performed,” notes Blumberg, “and this gave us the ability to be out front and not in a chorus.” They also held in common a love of a repertoire better suited to the intimacy of a club than to the concert hall. Freundlich had met Bluebond while both were enrolled at UCLA but was unaware of her musical talent until the Singers had to seek a replacement for their original soprano, former court reporter Barbara Gilbert.
Over a decade now, the Singers have become as much an extended family as a musical ensemble. “It’s a weekly thing. We’ve had more dinners than we can count. We’ve been involved in each other’s lives,” says Freundlich. “It’s been like acquiring a couple of sisters and a brother in the middle of life. The performing part is just the cherry on top of the cake. Because when we get together for rehearsals, we talk about cases sometimes and issues with the Supreme Court, and our conversations are far-reaching, sometimes about our families — just like a family.”
One family member, Hurevitz’s husband Ranger, has served the Singers vitally, providing arrangements that Bluebond terms “fun, lush, and not always predictable.” His contributions facilitate the group’s performing a cappella, with a quartet, or with an 18-piece big band. “They thank me for marrying the bandleader instead of the rich man,” Hurevitz chuckles.
Like siblings, the four tease each other playfully throughout the interview. When challenged on a particular point, Blumberg states, “Did I mention to you all that I wrote a book on persuasion?” evoking general laughter and a response from Hurevitz: “That you’re the expert doesn’t mean that you know what you’re talking about.” In fact, Blumberg’s Persuasion Science for Trial Lawyers, published by Full Court Press in 2022, has been declared a must-read by colleagues.
Persuasiveness is one of several qualities that the Singers bring to their activity, both on the job and onstage. “To me, the skills are exactly the same,” says Freundlich. “Putting on a trial is telling a story, and songs tell a story. I try not to be phony anywhere.”
“The key is, you’ve got to read the room,” adds Bluebond. “And if I have someone who’s not OK with a female judge, I can put that person in their place. … It’s like being onstage and dealing with a heckler.”
“When you’re in the courtroom, and even when you’re on the bench, you’re performing,” offers Blumberg. “If you don’t like being in front of people, you’ll pick an area of the law where you can stay in the back room and maybe do tax work.”
“Maybe it’s in the way I ask a question or cross-examine a witness, but you have to present your case in a way that people want to hear it,” says Hurevitz. “You have to be captivating.” Toward that end, she has tinted her hair purple.
Aside from showmanship, the Singers cleave to their founding principle of making quality music, which has earned them repeat bookings in Los Angeles, as well as national-anthem appearances for the Dodgers and the Kings. “Even though we have day jobs, we’re trying to be extremely professional,” Bluebond points out, “and people are blown away that three lawyers and a judge are pulling off what professional groups like The Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices and The Real Group are doing.”
“It’s the difference between just playing a Doobie Brothers song that you can jam through and actually having to deliver lyrics and harmony with rigor,” says Freundlich. “We’re not just jamming.”
The sweat equity they put into music pays off in their law practice. “Doing this absolutely makes it better for me to sit down and start doing legal work,” Freundlich says. “It completely recharges my batteries. The legal profession has a lot mental health issues, and everybody needs an outlet. For me, this is a way.”
“The performing, the singing, the connecting with the audience — it’s about nurturing the soul,” says Bluebond, “so then I don’t have to go out and overeat or shop too much.”
This month’s gig at Vibrato will showcase the American Songbook, with homages to the professional groups mentioned by Bluebond. The Singers will be backed by a small quality ensemble of trumpet, sax, and trombone, dubbed the Hearsay Horns. Later in the year, they’ll perform at the president’s installation for the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel. And they have a collective resolution to record and to make an appearance among colleagues and music fans in Northern California.
“We’re not going to make a lifetime out of touring,” Freundlich chuckles, “but if there’s an interesting opportunity somewhere, we would definitely welcome it.”