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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Seattle Men's Chorus Home for the Holidays Decks Benaroya Hall

Also see David's review of Love Is Love

The SRO crowd at Seattle Men's Chorus' Home for the Holidays concert on opening night may have partly been due to the guest star stint (that night only) of the self described "American Idol of 1956" Judy Collins, but word of mouth about the concert itself should assure very few empty seats during the remainder of SMC's holiday. Hilarious and heartwarming, it is one of the very best concerts I have seen the Chorus put on in 17 years of attending them.

From the opening "Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas" through the traditional closing rendition of "Silent Night" (with its final chorus performed, as ever in ASL), Artistic Director Dennis Coleman and Associate Artistic Director (and special material creator) Eric Lane Barnes unwrap a musically sublime package, and the Chorus itself has never sounded better. There is an excellent balance between the more contemplative traditional carols; holiday songs by such Tin Pan Alley and Broadway lights as Styne, Comden and Green ("Be A Santa"), Berlin ("White Christmas") and Loesser ("What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"); and Barnes' contributions, which include a new spin on "Jingle Bells" which became "Jumble Bells" and the "Dreidel Song" done ala country-western. Barnes' sketch "The Aluminum Christmas Tree" is a sweet nod to holiday tales gone by.

A radiant, still youthful looking Judy Collins was the proverbial shining star atop the holiday tree. From "Joy to the World" to a sing-along "Amazing Grace", Collins had the audience in the palm of her hands and, with a heart-tugging rendering of her signature song "Both Sides Now," she wrung the teardrops from our eyes. A Seattle guest, comic/musician Hokum W. Jeebs was perhaps the oddest element of the evening, but his old-fashioned clowning was definitely in keeping with the nostalgic theme of Home for the Holidays.

ASL interpreter Kevin Gallagher is always as much a joy for the hearing audience to watch as he is for their deaf counterparts. The Captain Smartypants sub-group of SMC lends its humorous theatricality throughout the show, and principal accompanist Evan Stults is an invaluable asset to this holiday concert and all year round. With comparatively few performances you can expect few tickets remain for the show. Don't cheat yourself of a wonderful evening of holiday mirth and music!

Home for the Holidays runs December 9, 21, 22 & 23 at Benaroya Hall, 3rd & Pike in downtown Seattle, and December 8 at the Rialto Theatre 310 S 9th St, Tacoma, For ticket information go online at www.flyinghouse.org.



- David Edward Hughes



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