Monday, June 15, 2009

Instrument of Peace

The Missoula Gay Men's Chorus
Spring Concert 6/12/09
Missoula Montana

Let me not so much seek to be consoled (to be consoled)
As to console (As to console, as to console)
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For in giving we receive (for in giving we receive)

Let me be, let me be, let me be
Let me be an Instrument of Peace

--Greg Gilpin, based on the words of St. Francis of Assisi
Youtube has a version of this beautiful piece.

NOTA BENE: What follows is not a review. I am too intimately connected with the Chorus to be objective.

In February, 2002, a group of men took the stage at the Missoula Children's Theatre, and sang one of the songs from the musical Les Misérables, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. This was part of an evening entitled "From the Heart," and was a fund-raiser for the Western Montana Gay & Lesbian Community Center. Several individuals performed that evening, but for the Missoula Gay Men's Chorus, it was the first time they had faced a paying audience. I think I can speak for those men present when I say it was a thrilling experience.

In the years since, the Missoula Gay Men's Chorus has performed on numerous occasions in venues across the state of Montana. We have sung for private gatherings as well as public. We have produced our own concerts and have sung at benefits sponsored by other groups. I wrote about two such occasions last September (the Names Project Quilt on display in Missoula and the Jeannette Rankin Peace Party).

During the two plus years I spent in California, the biggest regret I had was not being able to sing with the Chorus. I consider myself (and, thankfully, so do the other Chorus members) a founding member of the Chorus. I have great memories of times with the guys. And last Friday, the Chorus performed its annual Spring Concert in The University of Montana's Music Recital Hall.

Emery Jones singing Everybody Wants My Fanny, by Benny Bell

For reasons unknown to me, we didn't do a lot of promotion for this concert. We printed tickets, posted flyers, and had announcements in various community bulletin boards, but at the dress rehearsal we joked about singing for the two people who would show up. I can't speak for anyone else, and I won't give my own excuses, but I know I turned back all ten of the tickets I was given to sell. I was responsible for six people buying tickets at the door, but still.... (Our final ticket count was 83 tickets sold, raising $830 for Missoula's Poverello Center, an organization that feeds and houses the homeless.)

In my not so humble opinion, this was the best concert we have done to date. The program flowed relatively smoothly from the opening number, Instrument of Peace, to the final encore, Parade. In between we fit 150 years of American popular music, both in pieces sung by the entire ensemble, and in various solos. We even did a barbershop quartet version of When You Wish Upon a Star.
Our own Barbershop Quartet
Yours truly , Fred Eigenmann, Emery Jones, Gary Bowman
(bass) (baritone) (2nd tenor) (1st tenor)

We sang Gershwin (Embraceable You); we sang Broadway (Seasons of Love from Rent). We embraced the city (Manhattan Transfer's Java Jive and Sammy Kahn's My Kind of Town) and headed out into the country (Ghost Riders in the Sky and I Talk to the Trees). We took up the cause of top-40, whether it be Stephen Collins Foster's Beautiful Dreamer or George Harrison's Something. Not to mention one of the top groups from my high school years, the Association (a medley of Never My Love and Cherish).

Artistic Director Daniel Hampson conducting from the Clavinova

For the most part, we sang the songs in the order in which they were written, closing with the 1996 Seasons of Love. As an encore, we returned with one of our perennial crowd-pleasers, Parade by Eric Lane Barnes of the Seattle Men's Chorus. All in all, a fun time was had by all--I hope. Certainly no one told me any different.

By the way, you don't need to be a gay man to sing with us, but you can't be afraid of being identified as a gay man either. We welcome new singers and also contributions both in-kind and cash. If you want us to come sing for you, let us know. We might be able to work something out. It is our goal to present a positive image of gay men in Montana, and to be, truly, an Instrument of Peace.

"Tonight, following weather there'll be lots of shots of leather"
The Missoula Gay Men's Chorus singing Eric Laine Barnes' Parade

A note on the photographs. First, it was very dark in the Music Recital Hall and I didn't want to use flash, so I set the camera at a very fast "film" speed, ASA 1600--hence the grain. Also, any movement was caught by the slow shutter speed, so a singer's head my be out of focus because he moved as the shutter snapped. Finally, all pictures were taken with my camera by my partner, Kevin Kerr. If you care to click on any of these photos, they will open full screen in a new window. The links open in a new window as well.

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