Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, generally credited with jump-starting the gay and lesbian rights (now LGBT) movement. The centerpiece of this year's spring concert was Quiet No More, a multi-movement choral celebration of this event, written by several different teams and commissioned by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles for this anniversary, as well as the 40th anniversary of both groups. Funding and input was also supplied by 17 other choruses from all over the United States.
I didn't find the piece held my attention musically, and the new performing venue is not acoustically ideal for hearing sung lyrics. Pretty much all of the movements are in the same moderato tempo, so what interest the piece generated came mostly from spoken text and the wonderful slide show that accompanied. Another piece making the rounds this year is Andrew Lippa's Unbreakable ,celebrating 100 years of LGBT life.
The Gay Men's Chorus of Tampa Bay gave Quiet No More a good go; the singing was clean, with some nice solo work by John Carlos Arcos in the "And We Walked" movement, Joshua Smith in "What If Truth Is All We Have," and Brooke Bryington in "Speak Out!." The chorus members seemed invested in the peace and the overall effect on the audience was just what what one would want to get from a concert celebrating 50 years of liberation, uplifting.
The second half consisted of a mix of solos and numbers for the chorus. While there were some sensational selections, it remained a diverse group of selections instead of a unified whole. Marcus Walker led things off with Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia on My Mind." Nerves got the best of him at the very beginning, but once he shook those off he offered some nice vocal riffs that turned the perennial classic into a lowdown blues croon. The chorus offered Lennon and McCartney's "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in a spirited arrangement by Kirby Shaw which they later reprised to march out to the lobby to greet the audience after all the music making.
Dexter Lewis informed us that "Change Is Gonna Come." This young man has a striking voice and shows promise to grow as an artist. Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," in a rhythmically interesting arrangement by Paul Langford, showed the chorus at its best, the rhythmic figures that keep the song propelling forward always precise. Juan Fontanez sang Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man" and, while the song is not exactly to my typical taste, it moved me, as did the performance. "Somewhere Only We Know," by Tim Rice-Oxley, Richard Hughes and Tom Shaplin in an arrangement by Adam Anders and Peer Astrom was well performed and lively.
The last solo was "Killing Me Softly (With His Song)" sung by John Carlos Arcos. If this man were to release an album, either full length or just a few selections, I would be at the head of the line to purchase. He took what is basically a story song and added a very personal interpretation, a little toward R&B and a touch toward jazz with much word pointing, to add a layer of haunting to this already sublime song.
Mr. Goyens' leadership seems solid. He got fine singing from his chorus and nice blend throughout the night.
Quiet No More was presented by The Gay Men's Chorus of Tampa Bay on May 10, 2019, at King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church, 3150 5th Avenue N., St. Petersburg FL. For more information on the organization, visit gmctb.org.
Quiet No More, A Choral Celebration of Stonewall
Members of The Gay Men's Chorus of Tampa Bay