Gay Chorus Breaks the Mold

Though they may not be the biggest of Boston’s choral groups, they are definitely the best dressed. Dressed in sharp tuxes and red boutineers, the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, BGMC, visited campus last Sunday to perform a selection of songs in the Cochran chapel. Although not your traditional group of singers, the choir brought with them exceptional talent, and despite the small turnout at the soncert, the performance proved to be pleasurable for all of those who attended. BGMC is one of New England’s largest and most successful community-based choruses and has won national acclaim for its musicianship and community outreach work. The first piece of the concert, “Glorious Apollo” by Samuel Webbe, was a spirited song, which was written for a 19th century London glee club. Sung a cappella, the men blended together perfectly and nicely projected their strong voices throughout the Chapel. This piece was followed by Gloria, Op. 52 by William Mathias, a longer piece with deep undertones and an eerie feel that contrasted with the happiness of the previous song. With only piano for accompaniment, the basses stood out for their powerful resonance as their rhythmic chants alternated with haunting melodies. Several of the selected songs contained lyrics, which pertain to current issues involving the gay and lesbian community. “Requiem” by David York, a reaction to the AIDS outbreak in America 20 years ago, began with a few men recounting their experiences with aids, while accompanied by the humming of the rest of the chorus in the background. The stories included accounts of personal experiences of how they dealt with the deaths of friends, and the toll AIDS has taken on their lives. After these solo speeches, the entire choir came together as the soft buzz they had began with transformed into a loud roar. With its gloomy mood, the tenors’ haunting melody was strengthened by the deep voices of the basses. By the end of the piece, which lasted several minutes, the singers showed signs of fatigue but maintained their composure up until the final chord. Later in the concert, the singers performed a piece composed by the gay composer Benjamin Britten for the prisoners in German concentration camps during the Holocaust. Titled “The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard,” the song told a story, with the piano setting a rhythm but not overly dominating the piece. In this piece the chorus’s projection and articulation was especially strong as its singers belted the tough words. As its initial chanting evolved into a gentler melody, the piece created suspense and its compelling storyline swept up the audience in its powerful lyrics. Two of the songs performed featured soloists. In “The Road Home” by Stephen Paulus, a melodious, somewhat sad yet still hopeful piece, chorus member Hank Bingham displayed enormous talent with his wonderful range. The other piece that featured soloists was “Ella’s Song” composed by Bernice Johnson Reagon. A ballad about freedom, the song took on a soulful and spiritual mood, a change of style from the previous pieces. To wrap up the afternoon, the singers put all their remaining energy into a very spirited, happy song called “Down by the Riverside” arranged by Chad Weirick. With quick piano chords and a fast beat, the song got the audience smiling and tapping their toes in a hurry. Bobbing their heads and stamping their feet, the singers showed immense enthusiasm and were received well by the audience, who clapped loudly with delight at the end of the piece.