The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC) gave a festive spring sing-along concert, the “Big Gay Sing 11: Body & Soul,” at New York University’s Skirball Center on March 22, 23 and 24, celebrating the myriad contributions of African-American artists to pop music, jazz, soul, R & B, and more that we so love. Wielding the baton were Artistic Director Dr. Charles Beale and Assistant Conductor John J. Atorino. Pianist Aaron Dai, assisted by seven additional instrumentalists, served as accompanist and All Hands in Motion provided ASL interpretation. Choreographic movement was devised by Gregory LeCleir, Sean Segerstrom, Marc Sachse, and Francis Toumbakaris. Peppermint, of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fame, was the guest hostess, sporting a number of fabulous gowns. I heard the second night’s concert.
John Rosamund Johnson and James Weldon Johnson’s proud anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” in Steve Milloy’s arrangement, was the evening’s moving opening number and, in Beale’s arrangement, was reprised as the program was coming to a close. Singers and dancers collaborated on energetic renditions of Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it).” A Motown Medley featured welcome sing-alongs of Mary Wells’ “My Guy” and the Supremes’ “Stop! in the Name of Love.” Rihanna’s song “Stay” was next. A dulcet “Body and Soul” touched us and then choristers quietly limned “Sweet Love.” They cheerfully rapped a paean to “Lip Gloss,” in Lil Mama’s number, with Atorino conducting. A lyrical “Got to Get You into My Life” followed. The climax of the first half of the evening was NYCGMC’s tribute to the iconic Aretha Franklin, which found us heartily singing along with “(You make me feel like) A Natural Woman” and “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
Andrew Leonard was the fine soloist for Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricuse’s “Feeling Good,” from “The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd,” as adapted by Nina Simone and arranged by Beale. Janelle Monáe’s song “Tightrope” and a hushed “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing,” of Stevie Wonder, came next. Then Peppermint sang the Fugees’ version of “Killing Me Softly”—once province of Roberta Flack—with feeling, with the chorus and with us, as led by Atorino. James Temple was soloist for a beautiful “All of Me,” the John Legend song, echoed by choristers and audience. Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” with the singers and dancers a resplendent symphony in white and gold, was the grand finale and Beyoncé’s “Love on Top” was the encore.
NYCGMC observes Pride with “Quiet No More: a Choral Celebration of Stonewall 50” on June 27 at 8 pm at Carnegie Hall. Visit www.nycgmc.org
for further information.