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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 11, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 50
Seattle Men's Chorus delivers lots of comfort and joy in entertaining concert
Arts & Entertainment
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Seattle Men's Chorus delivers lots of comfort and joy in entertaining concert

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

SEATTLE MEN'S CHORUS
'HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS'
BENAROYA HALL
Through December 21


That girl from Kansas said it best, 'there's no place like home.'

Home, a place that's familiar and warm and safe. Home, a place to escape the frosty temperatures, an even colder political climate, and a world that's become bitterly violent.

For two hours, the Seattle Men's Chorus entertained us with musical numbers at Benaroya Hall that not only allowed us to sing and laugh, but it also provided a communal atmosphere filled with politeness and cheer, which is uncommon amongst strangers living in this city. It felt good to be there, to be sung to and to be reminded that the holidays are most importantly about coming together.

The chorus opened its 'Home for the Holidays' show with half of its members filing into portable risers, while the other half strolled up the symphony hall's main floor aisles and turned inward to face the seated audience as they sang 'Noel.' Quickly, the ensemble gathered entirely on stage, dressed regally in dark suits with red ties and matching pocket sleeves, and jointly completed the African spiritual-inspired number.

'We're going to fill you with holiday glee, okay?' said Artistic Director Dennis Coleman to a packed house.

A heavenly rendition of 'Ave Maria' was followed by a witty performance of a newer holiday favorite, 'Text Me Merry Christmas,' performed by Captain Smartypants, that included the words 'selfie,' 'LOL,' and 'emoji' in the lyrics. 'Soul Cake,' an English carol dating back to the Middle Ages, was one of the show's highlights that included select chorus members wearing vintage plaid trousers, vests, and snappy blazers as they danced at the front of the stage.

Globe-trotting travel personality Rick Steves made a guest appearance on this night, to announce two of his tours that would be awarded as raffle prizes. But he also took the opportunity to calm fears of those wanting to visit Europe, particularly Paris, by saying 'We should be more inclined to build bridges and less inclined to build walls.'

'A P.C. Christmas' was a charming piece that featured chorus member Greg Bowman dressed as an office secretary attempting to type up a holiday party memo to company staff that would be sensitive to everyone's religious beliefs, cultural backgrounds, and social-political stances. Rounding out Act I was a medley called 'What If Carols,' which whimsically re-imagined Christmas gems in the spirit and style of Stephen Sondheim ('Santa Claus is Coming to Town'), Lawrence Welk ('The Manger Polka'), Kander and Ebb ('I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus'), and Jerry Herman ('We Three Kings').

Act II began with Coleman singing 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' to a cluster of ensemble members collected by his feet in onesies and pajamas, as the full chorus, still in suits but with nightcaps, chimed in behind them. And though the concert was chock full of glee, as the chorus master promised, there was also a serious moment when the choir vigorously sang 'Not in Our Town,' recalling an incident in 1993 in Billings, Montana where a brick was thrown through the window of a 5 year-old Jewish boy's bedroom; instead of dividing a community, it united it by neighbors displaying a full-page menorah in their windows that had printed in the town's newspaper.

An interactive session, in which the audience was asked to sing and jangle their keychains along to 'Jingle Bells,' and then stand and shout their assigned portion of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' was a lot of fun. I'm pretty sure my group that belted out 'six geese a laying' was the loudest inside the concert hall. I adored the chorus' beautiful version of 'Silent Night' that faded out, well, silently, as members recited the final verse and chorus in sign language. Likewise, their cover of Josh Groban's 'Believe' was wonderfully arranged and performed.

'Christmas Rhapsody,' a holiday offspring of the Queen classic, was cute, but I thought it lacked a little punch. I've seen a few other choruses sing it, including the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, with a bit more dazzle. For an encore, the ensemble rapidly went through a costume change, from suits and ties to Hawaiian shirts, shorts, sunglasses, and other tropical wear, and sang a lively rendition of 'Mele Kalikimaka' to close out the performance, earning a much deserved standing ovation.

If only for a couple of hours, the Seattle Men's Chorus concert was a good distraction from the stress and madness, and the cold weather, that seems to come with the holidays. The ambiance was friendly, peaceful, and joyful; something that almost feels rare in these times.

'Home for Holidays' continues with shows on December 13, 20 and 21 in Seattle (Benaroya Hall) and December 19 in Everett (Everett Civic Auditorium). For tickets and information, visit flyinghouse.org or phone 206-388-1400.

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Seattle Men's Chorus delivers lots of comfort and joy in entertaining concert
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