Portland Gay Men's Choir promises eclectic musical mix

2012-12-05T20:00:00Z 2012-12-07T10:54:38Z Portland Gay Men's Choir promises eclectic musical mixBy Tom Paulu / The Daily News Longview Daily News
December 05, 2012 8:00 pm  • 

It’s a coincidence that the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus will sing in Longview on the first day same-sex marriages can be performed in Washington.

However, the subject of matrimony indeed will come up during the 110-voice group’s concert. The program includes a four-song ballet called “Love and Marriage” that tells the story of couples meeting in the holiday season. The ballet culminates with what production manager David Peterson called “a big sort of gay wedding.”

Some music in the concert will be traditional, some campy, Peterson said. “We try to do a broad spectrum” of styles, he said.

PGMC will perform Ralph Vaughan Williams’ rousing “Wassail” and take the audience on a lush tonal voyage through Eric Whitacre’s “Lux Arumque.”

The program will also include Morten Lauridsen’s “Sure on this Shining Night” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” while “Judah and his Maccabees,” a unique Hanukkah piece by Karen Hart, delivers the big gospel moment of the concert.

Pop fans will recognize Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” and Josh Groban’s “Believe.”

The chorus — which at full attendance has 140 members, not all of whom are gay or male — incorporates a 10-member dance troupe called the Locomotions.

“We’ll have all kinds of things going on,” promised choir publicity director Brian Robertson. “It’s a show. It’s not a concert,” and “appropriate for all ages. There’s nothing racy.”

Director Bob Mensel said the whole show doesn’t fit on the stage at some venues when the group travels, though the spacious stage at the Wollenberg Auditorium is plenty big enough for all the singing and dancing.

The chorus is in its 33rd season. It isn’t overtly political, Mensel said. “We try to provide a positive image of the gay and lesbian community (though the singers), and also to affirm the larger gay and lesbian community.”

The group doesn’t charge anything to perform; proceeds from the Longview concert will go to the local lesbian gay and transgender community and to the Cowlitz Free Medical Clinic.

The chorus performs several times a year in the Portland area and has done concerts around Oregon. Members sang at the Longview United Methodist Church in 2008 and last year went to New York for the 9/11 anniversary remembrance.

“It’s really important for us to have this outreach,” Robertson said. “Believe me, we will be noticed. We are entertaining.”

Mensel said the group’s mission includes being musically eclectic. “We’ve always drawn from anything we can to give variety. It encourages more people to participate,” he said.

“A lot of the gay men’s choruses just do pop music,” Mensel said. “We just did a whole classical concert.”

Some music is transcribed from songs originally written for male and female voices, though with the increase of gay men’s choruses around the country, more music is being written for such groups.

Mensel has a master’s degree in choral conducting and a Ph.D in music history from the University of Oregon.

“We have a lot of professionals in the chorus,” he said. “There’s a wide range of age and musical backgrounds.”

Robertson said the Gay Men’s Chorus has had “a huge influx in the past few years. Most of it is young people.” The group is indeed more age-diverse than most community choirs.

One of the younger members is Dustin Rapp, 30, formerly of Longview. Rapp will be a soloist on “Judah and his Maccabees” and is a member of Cascade, an a cappella sub-group of the chorus, which will also perform “For Unto Us” from Handel’s “Messiah” in Sunday’s show.

Rapp, of Portland, said the sense of community within the group is the biggest draw for him, along with “the fact we do big choral works and make great music.

“It’s a really valuable group for the community,” Rapp said. “It serves an important purpose in advocacy and expanding the choral arts.”

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