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fABBAbulous!

Posted: August 3rd, 2018 | Arts & Entertainment, Music, Top Story | No Comments

Albert H. Fulcher | Editor

Men’s chorus takes on ABBA … and nails it

Not many singers can pull off a night completely dedicated to the undeniable iconic music of ABBA, merely due to its perfection of harmonic symmetry. But leave it to a chorus, whose basic principles of music are based on the equilibrium of harmony in its artistic arrangements of the classics, to pull it off without a hitch.

ABBA’s music has touched the LGBT community since its beginning, and the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus achieved the same goal at the Balboa Theatre on July 28.

The San Diego Men’s Chorus encored with ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” at the Balboa Theatre on July 28. (Courtesy of Gary Payne Photography)

With many of the chorus’s concerts consisting of a variety of songs that range in style, mood and meaning, Artistic Director RC Haus said there was only one way to approach performing the music of ABBA: Have fun with it. And that they did, bringing the sold-out concert attendees an evening of enjoyable, reminiscent excitement. With no holds barred versions of ABBA brilliance, they left everyone feeling stranded, because all we wanted was more.

Nothing short of masterpieces, these songs are as popular today as they were in the 70s, spanning generations. Haus’ arrangements took them to grander scales, truly delivering on his promise.

Most of all, and probably most importantly, it was clearly evident that the members of the chorus had as much fun as the crowd. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing vocalists that are completely in their element. Add in some sexy choreography, some moving solos, dancers and some dancing queens, and what more can be said? ABBA is about as gay as it gets, and the chorus fed on the music — stampeding the show into an ABBA frenzy for all.

Isaiah Bindel and Reka Gyulai of the California Ballet Company join the San Diego Men’s Chorus in a moving rendition of “Fernando.” (Photo courtesy of Gary Payne Photography)

There were some comedic moments, first in the rendition of “When I Kissed the Teacher.” Like going to a play, the ensemble in front of the singers gave this song a different take, both funny and rememberable with the cast milking it to the max. It was the same with “Does your Mother Know.” In both cases, this brilliant move enhanced the chorus’s performance.

Within all the fun though, there were also some tender moments. “The Way Old Friends Do” was handsomely arranged. The trio of singers (Lew Atkinson, Shaun Ferreira and James Flaherty) led the chorus in a beautiful tribute to Steve Karo, a longtime supporter of the chorus and saved the Balboa Theatre,  that left the audience silent. This was a magical moment of unison that could not be denied. It was simply stunning.

Whispers in the crowd, including from the person sitting next to me, revealed many attendees were waiting for “Fernando.” With the edition of Reka Gyulai and Isaiah Bindel from the California Ballet Company, who danced superbly to the wonderful arrangement, the lyrics of this song took on distinctive meaning in a story-telling moment. Bravissimo!

Kevin Hannahoe, Andy Smith, Nick Stone and Steve Uhrman introduced another element to “I Have a Dream,” quartet magnificos,  a number that would otherwise just be another favorite ABBA song.

Throughout the night, the best part of all was watching the faces of chorus members as they sang and danced through a night of great music. There is nothing better in a concert than seeing performers loving what they are doing and being in the moment.

The night was filled with light-heartedness and it spread quickly through the audience. By the time they encored, finally performing “Dancing Queen” (you had a lot of people concerned there RC), the house was up on their feet dancing away.

This was the perfect close to a fabulous night of entertainment. The crowd was very fidgety during most of the performance, mostly because everyone wanted to sing and dance along with all of their favorites. (There should have been a mosh pit.) The only disappointment in the evening is that it ended. We could have stayed for a few more encore performances, especially for ABBA.

Thank you for the music.

—Albert Fulcher can be reached at albert@sdcnn.com.

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