Monday, April 25, 2011

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus

Davies HallOn Thursday night I was in a full house at Davies Hall to hear the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. An interactive slide show ("Clap if you arrived on public transportation.") warmed up the crowd & led a count-down to the start of the show, though a miscue backstage brought the chorus out several minutes too soon. Half the chorus entered down the aisles, & in the 1st number, Everyone Sang, there was a nice call and response between the stage & the auditorium. It was impressive just to see 250 men in tuxedos on the stage at once. The generally serious program included a setting of an Obama speech, a dramatic work by Jake Heggie based on a holocaust memoir, & a set of inspirational songs on vaguely Christian texts. On the lighter side we got a 3 tenors parody, a Wizard of Oz number, & a slickly-produced music video.

The chorus sang the challenging two-and-a-half hour program from memory. They produced a uniform sound that was warm & unforced. My first reaction was that they sounded bottom-heavy, but I think I am just not used to hearing baritones sing the melody. The chorus's pianissimo at the end of Gwyneth Walker's Tree of Peace was beautiful. This is their first concert with their new conductor Timothy Seelig, & he definitely has their attention. His first word to the audience was a humorously blasé "hey." Mr. Seelig comes across as an eager showman & self-promoter.

The inclusion of the Mission High School Chorus & a band from the SF Conservatory of Music emphasized the event's community feel & probably diversified the audience. Sign language interpreter Ethan Pope signed so creatively that the video focused on him during No Words to capture his funny, finger-wagging gestures. He was one of my favorite parts of the show. I was lucky enough to be introduced to him in front of Davies Hall afterward, & I learned that there are regional accents in ASL. Mr. Pope totally makes me want to learn to sign.

§ San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus

Dr. Timothy Seelig, Conductor
Carl Pantle, Principal Accompanist
Lynden Bair, Associate Accompanist
Benjamin Bachmann, Guest Organist
San Francisco Conservatory Chamber Orchestra
Special Guests: Mission High School Chorus, Steven Hankle, Conductor

Everyone Sang
Eric Helmuth. Words: Siegfried Sassoon

Shake the Rafters
Jon Bailey. Words: Bill Bowersock

In the Space of Now
Kevin Robison. Words: Eckhart Tolle

An Exhortation
David Conte. Words: President Barack Obama

No Words
Rob Landes. Words: Rob Landes. Vocal Minority

A Hundred Thousand Stars
Jake Heggie. Words: Gene Scheer. From For a Look or a Touch

Sure on This Shining Night
Morten Lauridsen. Words: James Agee

We are the Stars
James Granville Eakin, III. Words: Algonquin — Native American. From Stargazing

Musical Risotto
Jonathan Willcocks. Words: Traditional

Tale of Two Cities
Carol Hall. Words: Carol Hall. From Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Our Time
Stephen Sondheim. Words: Stephen Sondheim. From Merrily We Roll Along

Tree of Peace
Gwyneth Walker. Words: John Greenleaf Whittier

The Wizard of Oz
Harold Arlen. Words: L. Frank Baum and Noel Langley. The Lollipop Guild

Always With love
Music by Robert Seeley. Words by Robert Espindola. From Songs of My Family

In My Dreams
Music by Robert Seeley. Words by Robert Espindola. From Metamorphosis

We are the Bully Boyz
Music by Robert Seeley. Words by Robert Espindola. From To a Dancing Star

Further Along
Music by Robert Seeley. Words by Robert Espindola. From Exile

Music by Robert Seeley. Words by Robert Espindola. From Brave Souls and Dreamers

The Awakening
Joseph M. Martin. Words: Joseph M. Martin

Thursday, April 21, 2011 8 PM
Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall

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