BWW Interviews: Capital City Men's Chorus Talks IT GETS BETTER and Their 25th Anniversary Season
Capital City Men's Chorus, an outstanding staple of Austin's gay community, kicks off their 25th Anniversary Season tonight with a special Fall Benefit Concert. BroadwayWorld recently sat down with Jeffrey Jones-Ragona, the choir's Artistic Director, as well as members David Nielsen and Jimmy Hickey to discuss the choir's history, their recent involvement in the It Gets Better Project, and the camaraderie that comes from singing with 50 other voices.
BWW: Thank you all for taking the time out of your rehearsal to speak with me today. I wanted to start off by talking about the It Gets Better Project that you recently were involved in. I actually attended that concert and was very impressed and moved by it. How was it for the Capital City Men's Chorus to be involved in that?
DAVID NIELSEN: It was very exciting and we were very pleased that we were asked to be part of that. It was exciting to be working with other groups and other choruses that we haven't had any exposure to.
BWW: And how many people were on stage with you?
DAVID NIELSEN: I think the final count was 110 or something around there.
BWW: Wow! It really looked massive.
DAVID NIELSEN: They said it was the largest community chorus that they've had for the It Gets Better Project. Austin was the kick-off for their 2nd year of the tour. They did a tour last year of 6 or 8 cities and then they started again in Austin this year and will end in Houston this May.
BWW: So how much time did you guys actually have to rehearse with the other choruses that were involved?
JIMMY HICKEY: We started rehearsals in the late spring. Jeffrey, our Director, got some of the music so we could rehearse the two songs, "45 Degrees" and "You Have More Friends Than You Know." We muscled through it a few times just to get a head start for the actual rehearsals in September. When we got back from our summer break, we had already had that head start but we also added some new members, so some people were familiar with it but some people were new to it. Then we found out there was a different version of "45 Degrees" so we had to stop learning the one we'd been learning and had to start on the different version. But we had a good head start, and even though we were given a different version of "45 Degrees," we were still able to learn that fairly easily.
DAVID NIELSEN: Apparently the arranger of "45 Degrees" had put out a new arrangement for it that even the touring group wasn't even aware. When they came and we started rehearsing with them, we started singing the song, and they kind of looked at us like, "We've never heard this version before. Where did you get it? We like it, but we haven't heard it before." So we used that one, and it was the first time that version was used in the It Gets Better Project.
BWW: So what was it like to be performing in the It Gets Better Project and with the goal of outreach to LGBT youth in mind?
DAVID NIELSEN: For me, it was important for us to be there and lend our voices to kids who are going through bullying. For me, it's been over thirty years since I've been in that situation, but you still have those memories of when you were bullied. You can remember the person's name and face as clear as if it happened days ago. Those scars are lasting, but it was important for us to be there and say, "You can get through that."
BWW: Have you gotten any feedback from the audience?
DAVID NIELSEN: We got a lot of comments from the audience afterwards. There was an event immediately after the show, and there was a lot of positive feedback. People said they were very moved and that it touched them.
Jeffrey Jones-RAGONA: I have heard a couple things since the performance from people I've run into. We've received a lot of positive feedback. Everyone enjoyed it. I was more moved by it than I thought I would be. It's not that I doubted the importance or anything, but that part of my life is in the rather distant past, and I found myself quite moved by it and thought it was a terrific event. I'm glad we did it. It was very powerful. The LA crew loved it and said it was the first time that they had been able to do it the way they wanted to because all the choirs involved were so well prepared. It was so nice to be part of that.
BWW: I know you have the Fall Benefit Concert coming up, and back in the summer there was a lot of talk about creating an arc and story to your 25th Anniversary Season. How does the Fall Benefit Concert fit into that?