Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Love Hope Passion
Una Voce: The Florida Men's Chorale
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Mind Games


I was first introduced to Una Voce, The Florida Men's Chorale, at this time last year, when they gave the Florida premiere of I Am Harvey Milk by Andrew Lippa. My partner and I were quite simply blown away by that performance. Presented on May 20, this year's program, entitled Love Hope Passion, centered around When We No Longer Touch, a song cycle for chorus, baritone, and soprano by Kris Anthony (music) and Peter McWilliams (lyrics). I had heard the piece on CD and it did not strongly engage me, but this performance took the piece to new heights. Now 25 years old, it was written when all of the country's gay men's choruses were likely losing members to AIDS at an alarming rate. There are eight sections in the piece: "Prologue: What Will I Do If It Happens?," "Denial: Why Do I Torture Myself?," "Isolation: The Layers I have Put Around the Pain ...," "Anger: I'm Past the Point," "Bargaining: But Today?," "Depression: I Am Missing You," "Acceptance: I Shall Miss Loving You," and "Hope: I Have Loved."

The emotions expressed throughout, especially in "I Am Missing You" and "I Shall Miss Loving You" are close to my heart. Music director Joseph Caulkins wanted to add an additional layer, dance, so he reached out to choreographer Elizabeth Bergmann. They had previously collaborated for The Key Chorale in Sarasota. Ms. Bergmann worked with four dancers—Pedro Batista, Victoria Mora, David Nava and Megan Wors—to visually project the cascading moods within the piece. There was fluid coupling and uncoupling of the dancers, sometimes male-female couples, sometimes same sex couples. Each of the movements began with an orchestra prelude so the dance easily became part of the whole. The dancers were costumed in purple to coordinate with the purple shirts of the men in the chorus, loose shifts for the women and flowing pants for the men. Paul Gibson was the handsome baritone soloist and Ruthie Nelson returned after a stunning performance last year as soprano soloist. Ms. Nelson has a voice of radiant beauty which opens from a solid middle range to a beautiful shimmering top. I note from her biography that she has a busy career going, but I simply can not understand her absence from area opera stages. The chorus sang with fine musicality; some of the choral writing is a bit dense but the men of Una Voce kept things clear.

The second half consisted of shorter pieces all tied to the evening's theme. First up was a rhythmic chant on the word "Cibola" composed by Phillip White Hawk. Jackson Davis manned the wood blocks with sharp rhythmic definition. "Testimony" by Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) was inspired by the Trevor Project ("It Gets Better"). The piece provided some nice solo opportunities for David O'Brien, Will Hession, Ron Foster, Louis Fiol, Reggie Simmons, James Beaty, Jerry Dowdy, and Lance Cochran. "Proud" from the TV series "Queer as Folk," composed by Heather Small and Peter Vettese, was mostly a solo by Lance Cochran. "Born This Way," by Stefani Germanotta and Jeppe Laursen, featured choreography by Jerry Dowdy for the entire chorus. Next, Tom Barker stepped forward to read e.e. cummings' text "I carry your heart with me" set to music by David C. Dickau. The sweet, gentle text received a setting in the same vein.

Then, the chorus repeated three selections from I Am Harvey Milk, "Friday Night in the Castro," "San Francisco," and "Leap," which featured another breathtaking solo from Ms. Nelson. During "Friday Night in the Castro," the chorus was called upon to perform some rhythmic clapping which I commented on last year because it was so sharp and precise. It was just as well done this year. "Proud Mary," music and lyrics by J.C. Fogarty, featured James Beaty, Brooke Bryington, Zac Clements, Lance Cochran, Jerry Dowdy, Wayne Gabb, Will Hession, and Scott Lockard as dancers. Ending the program was the anthem "Seize the Day," music Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, a fine sentiment to send the audience out of the auditorium and into the world.

Before the program and again at intermission I watched as friends greeted friends, creating a true community of support. A special shout out to a nice gentleman named Mike whose conversation reinforced the strong sense of community for me, strangers coming together as part of something. Una Voce is big piece of that community.

Upcoming events for Una Voce include June 5 at 4:00 pm at Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th St, Sarasota, and June 12 at 4:00 pm at metro Wellness and Community Center, 251 3rd Ave N. St Petersburg, where they will perform excerpts from this concert. They also travel to Denver in July where they will participate in the GALA festival, performing When We No Longer Touch and participating in a massive performance of I Am Harvey Milk featuring a chorus of 1000 men.

Love Hope Passion was presented by Una Voce on May 20, 2016, at The Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, Florida. For more information visit una-voce.org.

Members of Una Voce: The Florida Men's Chorale:
Tenor One: Lance Cochran, Jerry Dowdy, David Fraga, Will Hession, Edward McBride
Tenor Two: Steven Crudup, Jackson Davis, Rob Davis**, Dominic DeCore, Rom Delacroix, Jason Fields, Louis Fiol, Juan Fontanez**,Dennis Garver, Michael Glunt*, Bill Kanouff, Alex Kloehn, Scott Lockard, David O'Brien
Baritone: James Beaty, Brooke Bryington, Tom Dwyer, Ghattas el Bassit*, ron Foster, Wayne Gabb, Jeremy Jones, Keith Lewis, Kirk Martin, Alexander Parmelee, John Shirley, Reggie Simmons, Ed Stevens**
5th Section Members: Will Perras, Barbara Scharf, Harriet Zazzaro
Bass: Tom Barker, Zac Clements, Clare Decator, Harold L. harkins, Jr, Jonathan Scott Hartman*, Tommy Heffington, David Huff, Stan Kutz, J. Peter Schultes, William Ward
**=New Member
*=On Hiatus

Joseph Caulkins: Artistic Director
Justin Havard: Principal Accompanist
Elizabeth Bergmann: Choreographer

Una Voce Chamber Ensemble Musicians
Justin Havard: Piano
Betsy Traba: Flute
Nicholas Arbolino: Oboe an English Horn
Chris Takeda: Violin
Jennifer Best Takeda: Violin
Michael McClelland: Viola
Aaron Nix: Drum Kit and Percussion
Luisa Bustamante: Cello
John Biller: Bass and Electric Bass


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