Saturday, December 23, 2006

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT: NYCGMC Holiday Spectacular at Carnegie (Holidays Part 2)

Carnegie Hall, 12/11/06

Next up on the holiday roster was a leisurely traipse over to Carnegie Hall to see a fabulous friend perform in the NYC Gay Men's Chorus' annual Holiday Spectacular. Gay men singing Christmas Carols? It's not what you think.

Imagine 200 (200!!!) dashing, nattily dressed men arrayed on risers spreading across the entire width of the spacious Carnegie stage, singing in flawless 8-part harmonies. It was breathtaking - exactly what you'd want a holiday concert to be. And just when the ears started to get numb from the traditional choral tunes, these masterful entertainers knew just when to toss in some camp to lighten up the atmosphere and even make us laugh.

In fact, it was these moments of inspired levity that were the standouts of the evening. For instance, they took the devotional classic, Oh Holy Night,  and turned it on its head with humor. Under the pretense that their celebrity soloist had backed out at the last moment, the conductor decided that their performance of the song was so strong, why not just go right ahead without the soloist? After all, the show must go on, right? What followed was a hilarious 3ish minutes of backup vocals over which no soloist sang the main melody or lyrics. The oohs and ahhs swelled in support of a phantom melody, with an errant "Holy!" thrown in here or there, to emphasize the missing lyrics. The conductor even gave the missing soloist cues from time to time, apparently out of force of habit. Brilliant.

They hit another high note or two with a pair of medleys narrated by Charles Busch, one of New York's prominent theatre actors, playwrites, novelists, and.... wait for it... drag queens. After all, what Christmas concert would be complete without a man in drag? My favorite was the homage to Hanukkah, in which she took us on a tour of distinctly New York Jewish Hanukkah "carols." Who would've thought that hearing "Oy gevalt!" sung in 8-part harmony would be so touchingly special? Again, absolutely hilarious.

Bringing back a due sense of decorum, they completed the evening with an inspiring a capella performance of Silent Night. Always a beautiful piece, they made it unforgettable and brought the audience to its feet when all vocals dropped out, allowing them to perform the final verse and chorus in silent sign language. Thrillingly, every member of the audience was able to "hear" the song in their minds, following alonng while the men signed the lyrics. It was so powerful and emotional, I still get misty just recalling it.

 In all, a fantastic night and an utterly spectacular way to ring in the holidays. Fabulous, darling, fabulous.

More Holiday Concerts
Part 1: Andrea Bocelli at Madison Square Garden
Part 2: NYCGMC Holiday Spectacular at Carnegie Hall

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