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NYCGMC & The Bang Group Offer All-Singing, All-Dancing Holiday Fare, with Bears, Twinks, Sugar Plum Fairies, & “Nut/Cracked”
by Bruce-Michael Gelbert      |   follow us...

   
photo by Bruce-Michael Gelbert
Holiday Slay curtain call
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The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC), 275 voices strong, celebrated the holiday season from December 14 to 16, at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, with ”Holiday Slay! Bears, Twinks, and Sugar Plum Fairies,” with guest dancers The Bang Group featured in “Nut/Cracked” excerpts, oddball takes on the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky classic. Artistic Director Dr. Charles Beale presided, sometimes spelled by Assistant Conductor John J. Atorino. Aaron Dai was the pianist, joined by a sextet of additional instrumentalists. NYCGMC’s Choreographer Syville Padayo and Choralographer Ryan Scoble and The Bang Group Co-Director David Parker devised movement, and consultant Shelly Guy and interpreter John Colon were responsible for conveying the proceedings in American Sign Language (ASL). Beale and, later, NYCGMC Executive Director Lisa Reilly, welcomed us to Skirball.
The choristers began with an unusually understated “We Need a Little Christmas,” from “Mame,” by Jerry Herman, in an arrangement by Beale, who explained that, during “a year of fear … [and] anxiety,” following last November’s election, NYCGMC has provided much-needed “community” and “safety.” In a contemplative “Fantasia on Christmas Carols,” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, arranged by Herbert W. Pierce, soloist Jeffrey Michael Meyer substituted, “Man was made with man to dwell,” more pertinent to the occasion, for the original line, “Woman was made with man to dwell.” In an exuberant “The Sleigh (à la Russe),” by Richard Kountz, adapted by Ralph L. Baldwin, trappings for the costumed dancers included antlers and roller skates. A very different “The Holly and the Ivy,” in Beale’s edition, rocking and marked by bopping and scatting, followed.
“The Nutcracker” spoofs, most with music arranged by Chip Prince, began with a lively sung and danced “Miniature Overture” and an ethereal “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” both featuring Bang Group dancers Ben Freedman, Caleb Teicher, and Deborah Lohse, with the full company donning shades for the latter. For “Waltz of the Snowflakes,” both graceful and zesty, in Beale’s version, The Bang Group wore red wool caps and tossed handfuls of ‘snow,’ while the singers offered a sweet choral vocalise obbligato.
Standing next to a table of menorahs, for a very political Chanukah number, by Fred Small, adapted by Kevin Robison, Scott Ivey sang “(No hate, no violence) Not in My Town,” of Billings, Montana, countering “white power, swastikas,” suggestions to “take down the menorah and the Star of David,” and a hint of Kristallnacht, with paper cutout menorahs, worn by all, in the spirit of King Christian X and the people of Nazi-occupied Denmark, who defiantly put on cloth Stars of David, which Jews had been ordered to wear. NYCGMC honored Kwanzaa with a rousing “Harambee” (Call to Unity), by Joseph Jennings and Dorothy Winbush Riley. Concluding the first half of the program was a full-tilt gospel “Rise Up, Shepherd!,” in Michael McElroy and Joseph Joubert’s arrangement, featuring soloist René Ginett, and dancers armed with tambourines.
Retaining their red bow ties, but exchanging their black tuxedo jackets, white shirts, and red cummerbunds for black shirts and white gloves, chorus members opened Act Two with an “O Tannenbaum” vocalise to introduce Kelly Clarkson and Greg Kurstin’s lilting “Underneath the Tree,” as arranged by Christopher D. Littlefield. Competing soloists Scoble and Zachary Ares declared frankly, “I Like Christmas for the Food,” in Katie Thompson’s cheerful song. The full chorus then offered a rousing rendition of Gregorio Fernández’s “Está Nevando a Villancico.”
For a jolly sing-along-cum-workout of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” Beale assigned day numbers to 11 sections of the audience and we stood each time we sang out lustily, not only about the gift of our particular day, but also about those “five golden rings,” which were everyone’s responsibility. On less boisterous notes, NYCGMC undertook Samuel Barber’s “Sure on This Shining Night,” with solo dancer Keiji Kubo; Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr’s “Silent Night,” in German, Spanish with soloist Luis Herrera; and ASL; and with soloists Justin Benefiel and Ryan Hontz, a tender “Winter Song,” of Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, arranged by Beale.
Returning to Tchaikovsky, Teicher wondrously erected a “Christmas Tree” and, with Alison Manning, performed a barefoot “Waltz of the Flowers” pas de deux, accompanied by the crackling of the bubble wrap that they danced around and on. Bang Group and NYCGMC Dancers joined forces for a delicate, then come-hither “Dance of the Reed Flutes,” complete with bearded premier danseur en pointe, and a furious “Trepak,” Russian Disco-style, before reprising “We Need a Little Christmas,” now with all the expected Broadway pizzazz. For an encore, the choristers urged “Carry On,” in the Fun band’s song.
NYCGMC returns to Skirball, at 566 LaGuardia Place, from March 9 to 11, 2018, for its Big Gay Sing Ten. Visit www.NYCGMC.org for tickets and information.



 

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