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The Triangle Gay Men's Chorus presented a concert at Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship that I would call sensational. If you enjoy the warm mellow sound of custard-eggnog male singing in the Mitch Miller or Ray Conniff pops style you will groove to the sound of this group. Of no mean achievement, a part of their appeal is that these nineteen men committed their entire program to memory – seventeen selections in all. Of course, what this means is that the eyes of all were on the conductor, John-Philip Mullinax, where all eyes in a chorus should be. Their sound was truly melliferous, the musical selections leaning toward the sentimental with a well-conceived dash of humor and fun tossed in. The program, titled "Warmest Wishes," according to Mullinax in a program note "is a reflection of differences among us. … The literature you will hear is not typical with regard to textual content for a holiday concert, but rather, is a collection of sentiments or 'warm wishes' we express to one another during this time of year." With the enhancing piano accompaniment of Joe Lupton this was a special and gratifying event.
Precisely at three o'clock (I like that, too) the concert began with the bewitching quodlibet combining Pachelbel's "Canon" and the familiar Christmas hymn "The First Noel." It was performed as an introit with the chorus entering from the back of the meeting room down two aisles to the stage. The sound and the setting produced a spine-tingling effect.
There was a joyous setting of Psalm 95 by D. Davidson and one of Morten Lauridsen’ delicious bon-bons – "Sure On this Shining Night." The rich harmonies were well tuned and the mystical weaving of text and melody, typical of Lauridsen was smooth and tight. Oh, I almost forgot: between each selection various members of the chorus quoted a few lines of poetry or literature that expressed the real meaning of the season to them. This added a unique personal touch throughout the concert.
"Winter Before the Fire" was an evocative recollection of warm love and affection. Words and music were by K. M. Tillman who also sang the solo in this presentation. Following this we heard another paean to hope and commitment in words and music by J. Slater titled, "In My Daughter’s Eyes."
The mood was broken with seven men singing, with visual aids for the audience’s amusement, a sort of Andrew Brothers setting of "Mister Santa" (to the tune of the Chordettes' enduring 1954 hit "Mr. Sandman").
The first half of the program ended with e. e. cummings poem "i carry your heart with me," set to music by D. Dickau, then the heavenly Austrian carol "Still, Still, Still" sung gorgeously, and featuring the high tenors, ending with the joyful, invigorating Hanukkah folksong "Bidi Bom."
After intermission, the concert continued: "The Sleigh," "Lullaby," "Cantate Domino," "Embraceable You," a traditional Spiritual – "Shine on me," "I Am That Man," "Silver Bells," and "Remember My Song." The Gershwin tune, "Embraceable You," was sung with notable class and style, and the closing piece with words and music by S. K. Albrecht and J. Althouse was sung with a sense of authenticity and appeal that just melts the heart.
There is something special about this concert. Despite Mullinax's disclaimer quoted above, it included everything I would desire in a holiday season concert and thankfully no audience sing-a-long. My companion and I left for home after chatting with a few of the members of the chorus with a bit more spring in our step than we had before. This program will be repeated Saturday, December 11, at 8:00 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh on Wade Avenue. Check out the details in our calendar .