Courtesy of Boston Gay Men’s Chorus—
Chad Weirick has been the principal accompanist and assistant music director for the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC) since 1993. On Patriots Day, he’ll add a new task to his job description: official BGMC Boston Marathon man. When City Council President Michelle Wu gave a charity bib to the group, Weirick welcomed the opportunity to combine his twin passions for running and BGMC. Having run his first marathon in Hartford last October and having long ago served as the rehearsal pianist for the Rockettes (as the youngest musician ever to work full time on Broadway, by the way) Weirick, now 50, knows the power of a well-tuned pair of gams. He’s training daily to ensure he can handle Boston’s hilly course, and we hope to see him high kicking up Heartbreak Hill. We recently caught up with Weirick to chat about marathon training, BGMC, and his other musical endeavors.
Q: After working with BGMC for almost 25 years, now you’re running the Boston Marathon to raise money for them. Clearly this organization means a lot to you. How come?
A: The Chorus has really become family to me. I’ve been with it for such a long time now and watched it grow from a smallish group during a time when it was such a brave thing just to get out there and say you were a gay chorus to now, where it’s a vital and vibrant member of the performing arts community in Boston. To me, it’s not just a gay chorus, it’s a highly accomplished performing arts organization that I’m very proud to be a member of. There’s so many great guys there that have become friends over time. And, obviously, it’s just been such a fantastic musical outlet for me.
Q: You’ve been running for about three years now, but had never done a marathon until the Hartford Marathon last year. How did you make the leap from running for fun to running a 26.2 mile race?
A: Before Hartford, I had done a few half marathons and 10ks. One of my favorite races is the Finish at the 50 down at Patriot Place. I’ve done that one a couple of years in a row. But if you’re a runner, no one ever seems impressed unless you’ve done a marathon. And I just never thought I could do one—like, the half marathons about killed me. But after talking about it to my trainer and the many running friends I have online, I got a lot of encouragement. My partner David was also very supportive in terms of putting up with all of my time away from home when I was out training. Between that and hearing of my friends’ marathon stories, I thought, well maybe I can do this. My trainer at the gym, who’s a runner, gave me a program to follow and I did it.
Q: How did the experience of actually doing it compare with what you expected?
A: I was scared to death, and I couldn’t sleep the night before. It’s one of those things where you sign up and think, well, I have to do it now. I can’t back out. I had also posted on social media that I was doing it, so it was like, I’m going to look like an idiot if I don’t do this now. So I had to do it.
Q: That doesn’t sound like starting the race off on the right foot, so to speak. How did you get through it?
A: Well, I went there and what amazed me was that the training was the hard part—getting out there every week to do runs in temperatures in the high teens and the low twenties, you know, 16- to 20-mile runs. Those are four or five hour runs and then you’re exhausted. It kind of kills you the next day. I didn’t realize the time that it would take just to train for it. But I put in the hours, I put in the miles and when I actually showed up to do the marathon, it was really more of a celebration than a run. I was not tired on the run. I didn’t hurt. I didn’t cramp up. I didn’t hit a wall. I didn’t have any problems. I was having fun talking to people. I was taking pictures. I was being goofy, doing some shenanigans, like lay on the ground, take a picture, like I’m passing out or something. Just having fun. When it was all over, it was like, so that was a marathon—that was nothing.
Q: Running a marathon is not “nothing!” How did you really feel afterward?
A: It wasn’t nothing, that’s true. David was waiting for me at the finish line with a cheeseburger, and that helped! But it was such a celebration and I think I was in such a mindset of, I’ve done the training, now it’s my time to reap the reward and the race was the reward. I wasn’t sore afterward. I mean, I was tired as all heck. But the Hartford marathon is a fantastic marathon for your first experience because it’s a flat course and they have tremendous crowd support. It was a great experience. Before I did it I thought, I’m never doing another one of these again. But as soon as you pass the finish line, it’s like, when is the next one? You become addicted.
Q: What was your time for the Hartford Marathon?
A: Four hours and 52 minutes, which shocked me because my goal was to be under five hours. And when I came in at my goal, I was so excited. I hope to do that time for the Boston Marathon, but Boston has that funny thing called Heartbreak Hill, which might put a little damper on my time. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from running is a six minute mile and a seven minute mile are the same distance, you still have to run that distance and nobody cares. It’s not about your finish time. Sure I would love to have a great finish time, but for me it’s about the journey that I’ve gone through and the journey that the marathon is.
Q: What do you when you’re not running up hills or making music with the chorus?
A: I’m the choir director at Wellesley High School by day. That’s my day job. I’m also a full time music director at the First Congregational Church in Hanover. And I also do a lot of arranging, which has become this sort of cottage industry for me. I started arranging for BGMC and then other groups heard the arrangements so I’ve gotten many wonderful commissions from groups like Turtle Creek Chorale in Dallas and in San Francisco. I never expected to fall into but it’s worked out very well for me.
Q: This might be an incredibly stupid question. Can you explain what it means to arrange?
A: Well, say somebody comes to you and says, “We want to do this song by Lady Ga Ga,” which is for a solo voice. So you have to arrange it for choirs singing in multiple parts—you have tenors, basses, and baritones. And if everybody just sang the same note that would be kind of boring, not to mention everybody has their own idea of how the melody goes. So you have to create and write out the parts, and you have to decide what key would fit the choir’s ranges best and you come up with things that would make it interesting for a choir to sing as opposed to just a solo voice. And as you play around with it, you will change the key. You’ll mix it up. You’re not just recreating the recording.
Q: It sounds complicated.
A: It’s fun and complicated and sometimes they want mashups of a couple of songs that work together and sometimes they have absolutely nothing to do with each other and it’s my job to figure out a way to get them to work together. But I love it.
Q: Thanks for the music lesson. I don’t have any more questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: I’m hoping that my running the marathon is a successful fundraising tool for BGMC because that’s such an important part of my doing this. It’s not just for me. I don’t want this charity bib to go to waste. And if anybody out there is thinking, “I can barely run a 5K. How can I run a marathon?” Let me tell you, I was that person about three years ago. I know exactly what that feels like. Take it from me—you can do it.
The Boston Marathon takes place on Monday, April 18. You can donate to Chad’s run for the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus at http://tinyurl.com/BGMC-Chad.