Courtesy of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus—
The Holiday Season just wouldn’t be complete without some queer cheer from the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC). With new commissions by lesbian composer Laura Karpman (and lyricist Rebecca Walker, a bisexual woman) and gay composer Gerard Alessandrini; a piece called “Christmas Can Can,” and a troupe of dancing Santas, Ho Ho Ho, BGMC’s annual holiday concert, will surely put some pink in your White Christmas.
In fact, “Pink Christmas” is the title of one of Alessandrini’s new tunes. You’ll hear it, along with beloved seasonal classics and other surprises, when BGMC brings Ho Ho Ho to the stage at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall in December. Read on to learn more from BGMC Musical Director Reuben Reynolds III about how the chorus will celebrate the holidays this year. [pullquote]It’s just been written. It’s never been performed. It was commissioned by a group of the six largest gay men’s choruses, and we’re all doing it this year: BGMC, Denver Gay Men’s Chorus, Gay Men’s Chorus of LA, Heartland Men’s Chorus, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and the Seattle Men’s Chorus.[/pullquote]
Q: Laura Karpman’s “Loving, Tender, Present,” is a unique piece and not standard holiday concert fare. Can you tell us what it’s all about and how it fits with your festive theme?
A: The title comes from the names of the three individual movements of the piece. It’s the story of a woman who has a child, and how her family grows. Each of the movements takes place at Christmas time, over the span of three generations. The idea is that we wanted to be able to tell a Christmas story that is about us and about our LGBT families.
Q: That sounds so moving. How often has that piece been performed?
A: It’s just been written. It’s never been performed. It was commissioned by a group of the six largest gay men’s choruses, and we’re all doing it this year: BGMC, Denver Gay Men’s Chorus, Gay Men’s Chorus of LA, Heartland Men’s Chorus, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and the Seattle Men’s Chorus. We’re all always looking for a way to tell stories that are important to our community—that define, in many ways, what our holidays are.
Q: Gerard Alessandrini appears to define them very differently from Karpman, judging from the titles of tunes like “If I Were A Gentile,” and “Pink Christmas.” Can you talk a bit about the piece he wrote for BGMC?
A: Yes, we’re going to define the holidays in a different way in the second half of the show. Gerard wrote a revue called Forbidden Broadway that ran in New York for about 20 years and have been performed more than 9,000 times in cities across the United States as well as internationally. The show, in its various editions, played in New York for about 20 years and has seen about 9,000 performances in more than 200 U.S. cities as well as London, Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney. It spoofed Broadway shows and he changes it constantly, as new shows open. They’re all hilarious. He actually lives here in a Boston suburb and attended the Boston Conservatory. I met him, and I threw out the idea of wanting to write something for the Chorus, so he wrote a little revue called Forbidden Holiday. The songs are hilarious.
Q: Do tell! [pullquote]“Pink Christmas” is the third one. It’s based off the song “White Christmas,” with lyrics like, “I’m dreaming of a pink Christmas, where even Santa Claus is gay.” It is going to be one of the most show-stopping numbers we have ever staged.[/pullquote]
A: The first song is called “Snow,” and it’s a parody of the song “Snow” from the old Bing Crosby movie White Christmas. It’s taken from the perspective of someone who lived in Boston last year. It was nice to get some snow at first, and then it got really bad, and we were all screaming at each other by the end of it.
“If I Were A Gentile” is a takeoff of the character Tevye’s song “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof. He’s a Jewish guy who’s saying, “If I were a Gentile, I could get Christmas presents like everybody else. Maybe it wouldn’t be bad to be a Gentile, just for a day.”
“Pink Christmas” is the third one. It’s based off the song “White Christmas,” with lyrics like, “I’m dreaming of a pink Christmas, where even Santa Claus is gay.” It is going to be one of the most show-stopping numbers we have ever staged. We’re going to do our best to turn the entire stage pink in five minutes or less. We’re talking huge pink Christmas trees with pink lights and pink garlands. It’s going to be stunning. It’s just going to shock you, I hope.
Q: Now, what does the can-can have to do with Christmas? Is this just an excuse for chorus members to wear ruffled dresses and show off their knickers?
A: Well, that might be a little true. I asked Michelle Chassé, our choreographer, to do something the Chorus has never done before, and she said we’ve never done a can-can. Then all of a sudden, I found this piece called the “Christmas Can-Can.” So, the dancers are actually going to be dancing a can-can on stage. It is hilarious. It’s a riot of a piece.
Q: Can you talk about some of the more traditional holiday pieces you’ll be singing?
A: There are a lot of traditional holiday songs in the show. We’ll be singing “Pat-a-pan,” “Son of Maria,” and “In Dulci Jubilo,” using the arrangements of Karl Jenkins, a Welsh musician and composer who gives a kind of contemporary sounds to these traditional pieces. We’ll perform a really gorgeous piece called “Nerli Variations.” The song “Ner li Dakik” is a Hebrew piece that is a gorgeous little Hanukkah song. Translated it basically says, “My lovely tapers of Hanukkah, let me now kindle, as the lovely lights grow, as the celebrations we offer.” That’s followed by a really, really wonderful song called “Amazing.” It features two soloists and the Chorus. The first verse talks about Christmas, and the miracle of birth, and the religious story, and how fantastic it is for those who really believe in that—what a little faith can do. The second verse tells the glories of Hanukkah, what the Jews believe happened at Hanukkah, and what it did for them, and how that’s the same thing―it’s faith that carries you through, not the particular belief you have, but the belief in something. The third verse talks about how closely those two celebrations are related, because we believe in them, and we allow them to help us grow in our lives.
Q: It sounds like you’ll be covering a lot of musical territory and themes. How does the Chorus end a show that sounds as musically diverse as this one?
A: Since the concert is called Ho, Ho, Ho the last piece is a medley of pretty much every song you’ve ever heard about Santa Claus. Right now I’m working on trying to find pink Santa Claus outfits, because we’re going to have a line of dancing Santa Clauses at the end, and they just need to be in pink.
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus presents HO HO HO Dec. 13 at 3 p.m., and Dec. 19-21 at 8 p.m. at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St., Boston. Tickets start at $20 (before fees). Visit www.bgmc.org or call 617-542-SING (7464).
[From a News Release]