Chicago Music Review: MAKING SPIRITS BRIGHT (Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus)

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by Lawrence Bommer on December 7, 2013

in Theater-Chicago

A GAY CHRISTMAS ALL OVER CHICAGOLAND

In a major first, the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus just performed its Christmas concert at the prestigious Harris Theatre at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. You can’t get more visible or prominent than this—and it ain’t over yet. Today the CGMC moves to the ‘burbs to sing at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Next weekend the ensemble takes their two-hour holiday Yuletide present of heartfelt and original Christmas music to the vast Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park, finishing next Sunday at the elegant Mayslake Peabody Estate in DuPage Count’s Oak Brook suburb. Noel times ten!

Besides a slew of recent radio, T.V. and promotional appearances, this is no small feat of strategically spaced appearances by the 30-year-old troupe, burgeoning with nearly 200 members and a lot of glad tidings to share with strangers. Executive director Kent Bartram has done an excellent job at showcasing a Chicago cultural treasure that inevitably breaks barriers wherever they go.

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But the loudest kudos go to CGMC’s incredibly talented artistic director Patrick Sinozich, a first-rate composer and arranger in his own right. He delivers ten of the chorus’ favorites, ten new songs and ten by his own creation, instrumental and vocal, including 7 hilariously wry musical holiday “Haikus,” sardonically detailing the contradictions of a complex season.

The 1000+ audience couldn’t have been more delighted, or entertained, by more far-ranging fare than the ebullient program itself. Packed with clapping and gesticulation, jubilant with break-out dance routines that illustrated the songs, the first act regaled us with the white-robed spiritual rouser “The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy,” as well as the Spanish treat “Riu riu chiu.” Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s reliable “Let it Snow” capped a series of winter warmers, contrasted with satirical stuff like Austin Lounge Lizards’ “Christmas Time for Visa.”

With the chorus dressed in assertive holiday sweaters and every variation of green and red, plaid or plain, jauntiness reigned. Witness the ever-jitterbugging “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,” the Hawaiian-soaked “Reindeer Hula,” the jaunty “Fa La La” vocalizing to a merry tune by Arkady Ostrovsky, and Kay Thompson’s contagious and delightful “Jingle Bells.”

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Waxing even more eclectic and exotic, the second act contrasted the standard “White Christmas” with “Black Christmas,” Eric Lane Barnes’ anthem of redress if not reconciliation, performed by the five African-American members of the chorale.

Handel definitely did not write Gary Hines’ irrepressibly jazzy “For Unto Us A Child is Born.” “Really Santa?,” by Sinozich and Larry Todd Johnson, is a gay boy’s litany of disappointment at receiving aggressively “masculine” presents against his will.  The Cuban carol “A la nanita nana” gently ushered in the chiming bell ringers of “Sweet Bells” and the dance-crazed finale, Hal David and Burt Bacharach’s “Turkey Lurkey Time.”

It was enough to raise the roof, no small feat since the Harris Theatre is five floors underground. But if anyone can lift ceilings and spirits, and make all bright, it’s CGMC any December since 1983. Strike the bells and join the chorus!

Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus
Making Spirits Bright
scheduled to end on December 15, 2013
for tickets call 773-296-0541 or visit www.cgmc.org

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

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