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Quiet No More! A Choral Celebration of Stonewall is a suite of eight choral pieces by six different composers recalling the events of June 1969 around the popular gay nightclub at the Stonewall Inn in New York. It was not the beginning of LGBTQ+ assertion but was a major stimulus for claiming dignity, respect, and justice for all.
This concert, which filled every seat at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, opened with five selections sung by the Triangle Gay Men's Chorus, co-led and accompanied by Lennie Collins and Jeff Whicker. They began with "I Sing the Body Electric" from the motion picture Fame, by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, arranged by Kathleen McGuire. Accompanied by the pit band of sorts, made up of piano, electric bass, guitar, two violins, two violas, tenor saxophone doubling on clarinet, and drums, the popular song was a boisterous expression of self-confidence.
"From a Distance" by Julie Gold, arr. Mac Huff, was introduced by soloists from the chorus John Scot and Michael Lester. It was sung without accompaniment, allowing the rich sound of men singing together to allure the audience.
Tyrese Howard was the soloist in "Reach Out, I'll Be There" by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Edward Holland, also arr. Mac Huff; versions by Dianna Ross and The Four Tops were popular in the late 60s and 70s. The fine soloist and the chorus sang this ode to commitment with passion and conviction.
"Wheels of a Dream," from the musical Ragtime, by Lynn Ahren and Stephen Flaherty, arr. John Leavitt, brought cheers from the audience as soloist Jason Lewis belted out the words of hope for the future of his (Coalhouse Walker, Jr., in the musical) new-born son.
Throughout the concert, the backdrop was lit with different colors for each vocal selection, sometimes combining floating rainbow colors across the back of the stage – a reminder of the beauty of variety and diversity.
The Gay Men's Chorus next sang "Seize the Day," from Walt Disney's Newsies, by Jack Feldman and Alan Menken, arr. Rover Emerson. What this fine group of men lack in finesse, they make up in enthusiasm. They are a pleasure to hear. Their diction is admirable.
For the next selection, Common Woman Chorus joined Triangle Gay Men's Chorus for a performance of "One Voice" by Ruth Moody, arr. Marcelline Moody. A trio of soloists ‒ Carly Campbell, Rachel Bartlett, and Diana Nishimuta ‒ started the piece in a charming country trio and the two choirs then picked it up in a joyful expression of unity.
The Common Woman Chorus then chose a stirring arrangement of "Warrior" by Kim Baryluk of the Wyrd Sisters. This is a very popular anthem for women's chorus, employing rich and moving harmony sung a cappella to make a stunning presentation of its simple, powerful message. Incidentally, CWC sang every piece of music on their part of the program from memory. This puts them way ahead of the game musically and gives their director, Kirsten Stinnett, the awesome responsibility of cueing for precise attacks, cutoffs, and musical phrasing.
Their next two selections, Joan Szymko's lovely "Arise My Love" and the iconic "Over the Rainbow," were lyrical examples of the strong link between choir and director. Then another piece from the talented Joan Szymko, the rollicking "Quite Regularly Gay," was a delight for all to hear: the irregular rhythms and intricate interplay between chorus and piano was awesome. Szymko is known for her clever and unusual piano accompaniments and this was certainly one of them. It was played with extraordinary skill by pianist Nancy Whelan.
"We Are the Voices," by Jim Papoulis, is a powerful song challenging us to find our true voice within our heart and then to let it be heard. Soloist Kimberly Ebel and sister choir members offered a moving performance.
The Triangle Gay Men's Chorus rejoined by the Common Woman Chorus for two more selections: "Make Them Hear You" from Ragtime, with outstanding solos by Michael Lester and Jess Higginbotham, and "Born This Way" by Fernando Garibay, Stefani Germanotta, Jeppe Laursen, and Paul Blair, arr. Allan Billingsley.
The second half of the concert consisted of the multi-part suite Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall, co-commissioned by New York City Gay Men's Chorus and Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. It celebrates events, activities, and victories that arose from those significant days in New York that then served as a major catalyst for the modern LGBTQ+ movement for civil rights.
I. "Prologue: It was the Day," II. "The Only Place that You Can Dance," and IV. "Gotta Get Down to Downtown," are by Michael Shaieb. The opening numbers set the tone and spirit for the rest that was to come. A sense of worthiness and pride emerges from the community. III. "Glorious Beauties," by Our Lady J, V. "And We Walked" by Julian Hornik, VI. "We Are A Celebration" by Michael McElroy and Jason Cannon, VII. "What If Truth Is All We Have?" by Ann Hampton Callaway, and VIII. "Speak Out" (and be heard), by Jane Ramseyer Miller – are various anthems of struggle, determination, affection, self-realization, absurdity (some laws), hell (the AIDS epidemic), triumph, and more. What was not addressed in song was filled in with speeches and blocking and news clips projected on the whole stage. The entire concert was signed (ASL) by Sarah Ferguson and Cameron Larson,
For an encore, the massed choirs sang "This Is Me," from the motion picture The Greatest Showman. In a sense, it was a reminder that the achievements celebrated in this concert are neither final nor complete. Some gains have been under attack in the present political climate, therefore it is critical that we all continue to speak out and be heard for justice and truth.
There were many people involved in this outstanding production. They all deserve accolades.
___ Edited/corrected 6/26/19.