Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Choral Reflections

Looking back, I have enjoyed my first 3 concerts with the Heartland Men's Chorus. The hours of rehearsal, the drama of the guys, my aversion to and awkwardness in large groups are all worth the trouble when the curtain rises and you realize a whole community loves us.

My first concert with HMC was "Life is a Cabaret" ironically, the same title as my first St Louis Gateway Men's Chorus concert. Our concert was a wonderful program paying tribute to Kansas City composer John Kander, who, along with his late lyricist Fred Ebb, has written some of the most memorable shows in the history of Broadway.
Kander was in the audience Saturday evening, and was very appreciative and complimentary. He signed my program, adding to my collection.

"Life Is a Cabaret" was co-commissioned by the Heartland Men's Chorus and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles and features more than 20 of Kander & Ebb's songs from musicals such as "Zorba," "Steel Pier," "Cabaret," "Chicago," "Woman of the Year" and "70 Girls 70." We were joined for this program by special guests Angela Hagenbach and the Central Dance Theater of Omaha.

The phenomenal Hagenbach, best known as a superb jazz singer, demonstrated her scene-stealing charm in several numbers, notably "When You're Good to Mama" and "Razzle Dazzle."

The Star wrote:"'Life Is a Cabaret' was a smashing success, and as it enters its 20th anniversary season this fall, the Heartland Men's Chorus has proven itself an irreplaceable part of Kansas City's diverse and vital arts community."

For the Holiday at Home Concert in December, both nights sold out and the audiences were lively and appreciative. The second 1/2 was more silly than funny, but the audience loved it. They especially enjoyed the cheerleaders in a "Christmas Cheer" and Granny's "performance" which was as off key and confused as a Florence Foster Jenkins recital. The first 1/2 was more traditional pieces including and African anthem "Betelehemu", "I saw Three Ships", A fantasy on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and a ethereal Latin hymn "Lux Arumque". I saw lots of friends and that made it worth while.

I did not do the Judy Garland "No Place Like Home" and glad I did not. More of a play and featuring a soloist as Judy, the chorus was more of a back-up. I had several people tell me it was not the best program and that even the chorus looked like they were not enthused. These types of concerts always cause a bit of controversy. People love the big choral concerts, however even a steady diet of them can turn stale. The problem with Judy, from what people told me, is that it was too focused on the solo.

A Homecoming, our official 20th anniversary concert was a smashing success. With all the publicity surrounding Joe Nadeau's firing by St Agnes Roman Catholic Church for being gay and associated with us as a "gay positive" organization, the audience was charged. Joe received a ton of applause and handled it well. We were charged, the music was great, the show well put together, the soloists right on target, the sound was spot-on so all came together for a great show. A friend of mine commented that this more than made up for the "Judy fiasco". I had two special friends Barb and Ross in the audience for their first concerts with us and I think they were 100% impressed. Ross commented that is was incredible and a thousand times better than he thought it would be. He envisioned a dry church choir like concert but we put on a real show.

Next season will be upon us soon. A fall visit to Dallas is planned to sing with the Dallas chorus, I plan on going. I think I am a part of this group for a while. Some of the guys get real involved and their whole life and circle of friends revolves around the chorus. That is not me, but to sing with this incredible group is a challenge and a privilege.

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