Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Seattle Men's Chorus - A revival?

I've been a fond supporter of the chorus on and off since the early '90's, making a special point of attending first their free (and since abandoned) midnight concerts on Christmas Eve in an old theatre on Capitol Hill, to their delightfully silly and subversive holiday presentations that brought a twinkle to my eye and a wee giggle to my holiday cheer.

Some years ago that began to fade, concluding in the excessively artsy debacle of the '08 concert - where chorus leadership lost track of a key piece of reality...that most of us attending with such dedication have come to appreciate the Christmas Concerts as a cherished holiday tradition. We attend to giggle, to feel a little bit naughty, and to have our nostalgia stroked - to be reminded of the good, the festive, the fun in Christmas, and of the traditions and portions that didn't sting.

This years concert was an improvement over '08. While the first portion of the event consisted largely of in-jokes between music majors with occasional bashful hints at actual humor and mischief, the second act (barring an utterly repugnant hip-hop beat-box rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy") allowed the troupe "Captain Smarty Pants" (where it seemed all the humor and fun of past years had been increasingly quarantined, lest the rest of the chorus become infected) on stage and (thankfully) things began to pick up with a delightful "TV Holiday Show" skit, the return of "Silent Night" complete with two signed verses (ASL), and an absolutely FABULOUS performance of "Santa Baby" by drag star "Arnaldo" - one of the few queens who soars above the rest by the act of actually *singing* (and damned well) rather than indulging in that second-rate imitation, lip-synch.

That "Silent Night" was back was a joy...that it was followed by two Michael Jackson tributes (one a bit of liberal treacle, the other a holiday zombie tune), and Arnaldo's admittedly incredible number...rather less so.

I could've done without the Michael Jackson numbers entirely, but in recognition of the fact that Jackson (not unlike Judy Garland in a prior generation, or Bette Midler and Madonna in mine) has a large following in the community, I'm willing to grit my teeth and understand what I consider a distinctly overwrought response to his passing. And I loved Arnoldo's number.

However...after watching the chorus for a few years, and other events in other venues...when you have a piece as lovely as "Silent Night", particularly with the signed verses (don't knock it till you've seen it), that's what you end with - bring the house lights down at the end, back up, take your bows, and get off stage - leaving that warm fuzzy feeling behind to bring us all back another year.

Don't put us in that head space, then grab it away with a couple of pieces of fluff, and a DISTINCTLY raunchy rendition of Santa Baby (complete with very scantily clad bits of beefcake)...

Over-all, I'd say the Chorus may be making progress towards the irreverent, naughty, and joyous concerts of old - but that it has away to go from the recent trends towards terminal artsiness and pretension. Call it a "C+" with the note "The Chorus is obviously very talented, but the leadership could do far better in song selection and order. They struggle with a tendency to pursue their musical interests to the exclusion or at the expense of audience enjoyment. They do, however, show improvement."

If you read this, and you're going - think about making your arrival in time for intermission so you can enjoy the good part of the show.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

Interesting perspective... thanks