Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
Marc Matys stood center stage in his black tuxedo and white gloves. The orchestra softly played “Silent Night” as he began to perform the first verse in sign language. When the verse ended — which was absolutely captivating — the crowd waited for the rest of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus to blend in with their harmonious tones. Instead, the theater went silent. The chorus, all in white gloves, joined in superb harmony and precision, signing “Silent Night” together. In this moment of heavenly peace, not a sound could be heard through the entire theater. But it only took a glance to your left or your right to see the mesmerized faces and tears flowing. This brilliant artistic direction took this chorus to a superior level in musicality that left the audience staggered in awe.
This was a paramount moment in the Gay Men’s Chorus’ sold-out performance at the Balboa Theatre on Dec. 15, as it performed its annual holiday concert “Jingle.” With an array of holiday classics, cultural descants and beautiful serenades, the entire show confirmed that this chorus is the best of the best — and that they just keep getting better with one implausible performance after the other.
Artistic Director RC Haus brought in one of his very young students, Wilson Mueller, as a special guest artist to pair with soloist Tim Dwyer and the chorus in “A Million Dreams” from the film “The Greatest Showman.” This was a striking performance. It takes a lot of guts to take on some of today’s most popular music. Yet for the chorus and the soloists, it was just another day for the group as they glided through the number, bringing an alternative meaning to the song that was apt for a holiday show.
Absolutely delightful, campy and entertaining, “What I Want for Christmas Melody” let the dancers shine as they told the story of wanting a hippopotamus or “my two front teeth” for Christmas. With numbers like “Suzy Snowflake” featuring Fete Sagale and Emmett Coffey, dancers brought a lot of laughter in their humorous antics and their moves were as endearing as the expressions on their faces. They also proved their presence as professional performers. Throughout the entire concert, the precision of movement within and outside of the chorus line gained momentum, adding to the unabridged performer in everyone.
It is always a pleasure to hear the music of other cultures, especially since San Diego is home to such a diverse community. Whether or not you understand the words, music is a universal language that surpasses words. “Ocho Kandelikas,” a Ladino (yes, that is right, it is Judeo-Spanish) song of Hanukkah was easily understood, despite the language barrier. “Adeste Fideles” also stood up strong to Andrea Bocelli’s version.
One thrilling part of the evening was the performance of “Pasko Na Sinta Ko” and “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit” in Tagalog. The chorus not only mastered the lyrics, but also captured the harmony of these beloved songs. A performance by the Samahan Philippine Dance Company brought in Philipino members of the chorus for the Bamboo Dance, blending the best of Eastern and Western cultures together. The addition of the Candle Dance, simply, was exquisite.
All I can do is say is thank you to the chorus for sharing the beautiful arrangement of “I Shall Miss Loving You.” This beautiful song of grief is a vibrant reminder of the many we lost to AIDS and reminds us that our losses were not in vain. The chorus sang Peter McWilliams’ sonnet with beauty, pride and intent. It is as moving today and will be just as moving tomorrow. Every time that this song is heard, it reaches a new group of people that have never heard this part of LGBT history. This is a masterpiece of lyric and music, and the tenderness of this piece will remain in the thoughts and hearts that you allowed to hear it.
Performed by David Decker, Daniel Makholm, Andy Mathews and Brandon Pohl, “O Holy Night” is by far my favorite traditional Christmas hymn. In tandem, their combined voices not only sang a heavenly hymn, but also brought a sense of holy tradition that could not be denied.
To the chorus, soloists and entire ensemble that worked on this magical holiday musical journey, you were all masters of song. From every facial expression to sultry movement, pure joy radiated throughout the theater and proved once again that each member is as important as the other. It didn’t matter who had the solo or what row you were in. In every twinkling moment, you all executed in solidarity and it clearly was seen. Everyone exuded the mastery of choral performance. You made this holiday season brighter one song at a time.
And when you think things can’t get any better, you continuously show our community that it gets better every single performance.
—Albert Fulcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.