On Stage With the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles

December 20th, 2015

          December 19, 2015, my sister Judy and I attended an evening performance of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) in Glendale at the Alex Theatre. GMCLA was founded in 1979 and currently has over 200 members along with a talented professional and artistic staff. Their website acknowledges they’ve “built an international reputation for musical excellence”, “toured nationally and internationally, released thirteen compact discs, commissioned more than 300 new works and arrangements and appeared frequently on national television”.

          GMCLA produces a spectacular program during the Christmas holiday season and this year was no exception. Titled “Brassy, Classy & Sassy”, the two-hour event was an absolute delight, an opinion shared by Los Angeles Times reviewer Alysia Gray Painter.

          This first half of the program featured the chorus accompanied by a ten member handbell choir from Pasadena. They were the Crown City Ringers. Chorus music selections, including those with the handbell ringers, included Puer Natus Est, Gloria, The Time of the Season, Ding Dong Merrily on High, Carol of the Bells, Alegra, In the Bleak Midwinter (Crown City Ringers solo), The Bells, What Sweeter Music, Ocho Kandelikas, Ave Maria, Chanukah in Santa Monica and Silver Bells.

          The Art of Handbell Ringing has not been widely popularized. It’s a sound and performance that may not appeal to all and possibly qualifies as an acquired taste. The rather lengthy handbell performance with GMCLA may fall in that category. For others it appeared to provide a welcome opportunity to listen and observe a unique musical art form.

          The second half of the GMCLA program consisted of chorus support for eight staged skits. They included Bad Boy Rhapsody, Christmas is for Children, Be a Santa, The Man with the Bag, Santa Baby, Yes Virginia There’s a Santa Claus, Marvelous Holiday Sweater and All the Santa Clauses. The skits, as in years past, were performed by talented chorus members and included tap dancing, singing, slapstick comedy, and visual stunners. They poked fun at a bit of Catholic tradition, Santa Claus girth, and engaged in other mirthful antics. Funny does not begin to describe the scenes and performances. The talented performers, great choreography, staging and lighting combined to produce outstanding bits of humor, parody and song.

          This year audience members were encouraged to wear Ugly Christmas Sweaters and the chorus was entirely decked out in them for their “Marvelous Holiday Sweater” number. Earlier in the evening ushers throughout the theater approached selected patrons and invited them to appear on stage during the sweater number. I was wearing my Ugly Christmas Sweater and was approached about appearing on stage. My wish to decline failed for my sister volunteered me twice. I decided it was useless to argue. Later, immediately prior to the Marvelous Holiday Sweater number, young men, dressed in practically nothing, escorted individual audience sweater performers backstage. My arrival there was greeted with a “go out to the middle of the stage” – which I did. Two young men then grabbed me and said “you are ours”, locked arms with me, and guided me through the dance and other movement steps our sweater group performed while the chorus sang. My sister was delighted by the performance and with her decision to insist that I participate.

          Saturday evening in Glendale was rainy but that didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm. Judy and I had dinner before the performance at the nearby Carousel Restaurant, noted for its “Authentic Middle Eastern Cuisine”. The Armenian-Lebanese menu choices included traditional American fare, as well. We had an excellent meal. One unique aspect of our visit to the restaurant was in the men’s restroom. The top flat surface of the urinal had a mini video viewing unit mounted and it was displaying news items about water conservation. I later asked about it. The restaurant manager said the video was able to display anything that could be filmed – news items, commercials, pornography, etc. We both laughed at the latter when discussing whether an interesting or fascinating video would result in longer time at the urinal.

GMCLA Dec 2015 Flyer

          The evening was quite enjoyable and certainly worth the two-hour drive into the Los Angeles area to see the GMCLA performance. I’m looking forward to doing the same again next year.

          View LA Times review of this year’s GMCLA performance:

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