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‘Love Rocks!’ at The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington

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The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington‘s (GMCW) swinging, rhythmic, acapella-oriented Potomac Fever Musical Group and the stellar more traditionally chorale group, the Rock Creek Singers, have offered up a Valentine’s Day treat for connoisseurs of music that pulsates and jumps with vibrancy and verve. Entitled Love Rocks!, the evening presented some twenty exciting and interesting musical choices (replete with a rousing encore) that portrayed the more boisterous and upbeat edge of things but the production also encompassed the many myriad, melancholy and reflective aspects of love as well.

Potomac Fever :Paul J Negron, Jeb Stenhouse, Gibson Haynes, Jay Gilliam, Michael B. Smith, Bobby T Boaz, Kevin Thomason, Kevin Sweitzer, Cooper Westbrook, Jonathan Jones, Matt Holland, A.J. Rawls, Mike Allen and Jim Gruschus. Photo by Emily Chastain Photography.

Potomac Fever :Paul J Negron, Jeb Stenhouse, Gibson Haynes, Jay Gilliam, Michael B. Smith, Bobby T Boaz, Kevin Thomason, Kevin Sweitzer, Cooper Westbrook, Jonathan Jones, Matt Holland, A.J. Rawls, Mike Allen, and Jim Gruschus. Photo by Emily Chastain Photography.

Under the superior Musical Direction of Dr. Theo Kano, not a micro-second of this wonderfully invigorating evening was lacking in energy —add in the artistic finesse of some truly outstanding musical arrangements and superior, well-blended singers and you have yet another “step –up” in the artistic evolution of the highly respected GMCW. GMCW continues to “push the envelope” on artistic development under Thea  Kano’s Artistic Direction. Any component of the GMCW deserves to be heard by a much wider audience than just the Gay community – but, oh, what a source of pride the GMCW is for our community!

On the extremely cold wintry night that the opening evening of this event took place – all element s seemed to be in perfect alignment to forecast what turned out be an auspicious and perfectly delightful evening. Aside from taking place at the beautiful and historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, an interesting ambience was evident for this was the church where Lincoln attended services, it was Lincoln’s Birthday and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

Potomac Fever, dressed in distinctive yet quasi –casual open sports coats with plaid or plain turquoise-shaded shirts, opened the show with five scintillating and beautifully harmonized numbers that crackled with edge and texture. As the men galloped through their set with the air of thoroughbreds at the starting gate, confidence was intermingled with a convivial, disarming style of singing. As mentioned earlier, the superior musical arrangements made all the difference and what could have been merely mundane often bordered on the magisterial.

Opening with Freddie Mercury’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” the mood was set —and the follow-up song “Take Me Home Tonight” had a surging intensity that never let up as soloists Matt Holland, Jeb Stenhouse, and Kevin Sweitzer immersed themselves ably in the vigorous anthem.

“Falling Slowly” from the hit Broadway musical Once, was presented in a rapturous tableaux-like mode with notes falling and cascading like so many plaintive yet captivating rivulets of rain. Stillness and a note of melancholy pervaded this lovely song and soloists Kevin Sweitzer and Kevin Thomason abetted with a sensitive and insightful singing style.

Perhaps the standout (in an evening of standouts) for this set was Alicia Beth Moore’s song “Perfect.” Full of rhythmic and soaring cadences, the song simmered and shone—with soloists Cooper Westbrook and Matt Holland offering solid musical counterpoint to the proceedings.  The song surprised for –after a long very rhythmic section –the number exploded with a powerful crescendo and a hyper-charged snapping of fingers.

The wonderfully familiar “Right Here Waiting” was given an edgy and iconoclastic rendering by soloist Robert T. Boaz –no doubt due in no small part to the superb arrangement by Kirby Shaw.

The Rock Creek Singers: Brian Walther, Michael Toth, Jack Reiffer, David Shotwell, Ryan Robison, Michael Aylward, Calvin Robinson, Patrick R. Nelson, Aaron Z Wallace, John Jowers, Kyle Holland, Mark Hegedus, Lyn VanNoy, Craig Ruskin, and Ed Oseroff. Photo by Emily Chastain Photography.

The Rock Creek Singers: Brian Walther, Michael Toth, Jack Reiffer, David Shotwell, Ryan Robison, Michael Aylward, Calvin Robinson, Patrick R. Nelson, Aaron Z Wallace, John Jowers, Kyle Holland, Mark Hegedus, Lyn VanNoy, Craig Ruskin, and Ed Oseroff. Photo by Emily Chastain Photography.

The Rock Creek Singers opened the next set with Dr. Thea Kano conducting at the podium. The traditional and jaunty drinking song “Vive L’Amour” was livened up even more considerably by amusing choreographed hugging and embraces of the various members of the ensemble.

“And So it Goes” by Billy Joel was a haunting and heart wrenching highlight of the evening.  Every phrase of this lyrically –rich song was sung by the Rock Creek singers as if they were looking into the most intimate corners of the heart. Intimacy was redefined in this knockout of a number as arranged so beautifully by Kirby Shaw. (I am not a particular Billy Joel aficionado yet this number moved me immeasurably as performed and presented here —-yet, again, the GMCW under Kano reinvigorates so much familiar material in new and innovative ways ).

To propel the point I just made onward, John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “In My Life” is a solid standard to be sure but, here, –as arranged by Rock Creek Singers member Lyn VanNoy – the song takes on deeper meanings. Evocative cadences build and move the song becomes a much deeper, almost metaphysical,  immersion into the musings of the heart and the people who have touched the heart’s terrain.

As arranged by GMCW’s Robert T. Boaz, Melissa Etheridge’s “I Will Never be the Same” appeals as a take on the meaning of life as related to matters of the heart. Soloist Matt Beck’s almost falsetto-like tones vividly stand out in nice, effective contrast to the more harmonic sounds of the Chorus—-thus, creating an exciting and unique artistic choice indeed.

“MLK (Rain Down on Him)” as arranged by Bob Chilcott and with a wonderful solo by Rick Bennett was a ruminative wonder of a song. The constant un-ending utterance to just let the rain fall – almost a sense of the never-ending washing away of all the pain and hurt – was enforced by the sensitive singing of the Rock Creek Singers.

“What More Can I Say?” by the marvelous William Finn (from the Broadway Musical Falsettos) was delivered most appropriately as a paean from lover to lover. Sung in an almost conversational style, the song eschewed obvious theatrical veneer and made the song all the more intimate and moving.

Highlights of the next set by Potomac Fever were—most decidedly -“Under Pressure” with a fine solo by Matt Holland and, especially, “Heaven”  by  singer Bryan Adams. As arranged by GMCW member Robert T. Boaz, it was very hard to keep the tears at bay in this deceptively simple – yet truly heartfelt and direct song.

For the closing set, Potomac Fever and The Rock Creek Singers joined forces under the baton of Kano to sing four rousing and jubilant Freddie Mercury standards. The so very well-known “We Will Rock You” seemed to become an ode to the audience from the GMCW itself. “We Are the Champions” (with superb solo by Calvin Robinson) instilled a sense of pride in all with the fervor that surged through the GMCW.

 Jonathan Jones, Michael B. Smith, Jim Gruschus, Jeb Stenhouse, Matt Holland, Mike Allen, A.J. Rawls, Bobby T Boaz, Jay Gilliam, Cooper Westbrook, Kevin Sweitzer, Kevin Thomason and Paul J Negron at The Wonder Bread Factory. Photo by Emily Chastain Photography.

Jonathan Jones, Michael B. Smith, Jim Gruschus, Jeb Stenhouse, Matt Holland, Mike Allen, A.J. Rawls, Bobby T Boaz, Jay Gilliam, Cooper Westbrook, Kevin Sweitzer, Kevin Thomason and Paul J Negron at The Wonder Bread Factory. Photo by Emily Chastain Photography.

It is the 40th Anniversary of the somewhat quixotic and eclectic –sounding classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the Chorus delivered the goods with aplomb and verve.  The closer, “Somebody to Love” built to a powerful crescendo, and then, surprised the crowd with a hushed drawn-out utterance of the phrase “any way the wind blows” that pervaded the closing of the song with a hushed resonance.

For the enthusiastic encore, Stephen Flaherty’s moving anthem-like song (from the Broadway Musical Ragtime)”Make Them Hear You” was brilliantly performed to sustained applause .

Credit must also be given to C. Paul Heins on Piano and Lighting by Ryan Bennett.

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, winner of a 2014 Special Award by the staff of DCMetroTheaterArts, continues to impress and this evening was sheer musical bliss.

Running Time: 90 minutes.

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Love Rocks! was presented on February 12, 2015 at The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performing at the New York Avenue First Presbyterian Church – 1313 New York Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC. There is one more performance tomorrow, Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 8 PM  For tickets, purchase them online.

LINKS

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington is awarded a 2014 Special Award from the staff of DCMetroTheaterArts.

Richard Yarborough and Matt Holland are named Scene Stealers on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Review of Rockin’ the Holidays at The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington by David Frisic on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Review of Love Stinks! by John Stoltenberg on DCMetroTheaterArts.

GMCW Presents ‘Rockin’ The Holidays’ Tomorrow Night at 8 PM at The Lincoln Theatre By Craig Cipollini.

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC Announces its 2014-2015 Season By Craig Cipollini.

Gay Men’s Chorus Names Dr. Thea Kano Artistic Director.

The Energy and Commitment of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC by David Friscic.

Read reviews of GMCW performances on DCMetroTheaterArts.

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