Boston Gay Men's Chorus, Linda Eder Do Pride Concert Proud
Boston Gay Men's Chorus 25th Anniversary Concert with special guest Linda Eder
Boston Opera House
Friday, June 8, 2007
Reuben M. Reynolds III, Music Director
Chad Weirick, Principal Accompanist/Assistant Music Director
LeWana Clark, American Sign Language Interpreter
Words like triumphant, tour de force, and mind-blowing are not strong enough to convey what took place in the venerable Boston Opera House Friday night on the eve of the annual Gay Pride parade. The Boston Gay Men's Chorus 25th Anniversary Concert with special guest Linda Eder was one of the best this reviewer has attended. It was a night of celebration, filled with joy, love, sorrow, and hope, taking the occasion to honor the past while looking ahead to the future.
From the opening men's chorus standard "Brothers, Sing On!" which was one of the first songs the BGMC ever sang, the evening was partially a history lesson of not only this group, but the evolution of gay men's choral groups across the land. The BGMC has grown from its three founding members (who are still participating and received an enthusiastic ovation) to 200 members today. In his welcoming remarks, Music Director Reuben M. Reynolds III told the audience, "The real reason we sing ? we LOVE to sing!" The Chorus then went on to prove it by doing what they do best, a series of pop standards by the Gershwins and the now anthemic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The crowd loved it.
Reynolds has a knack for crafting a balanced program of songs that take you from the sublime to the ridiculous, that make you stand up and cheer, or sit back, reflect, and perhaps even weep. The tone changed decidedly when founding member and baritone John Strumwasser stepped forward for a link to the past with Holly Near's "The Great Peace March." The stanza "We will have peace because we must" was resonant and moving when the pleading voices sang out as one. "Family" from "Dreamgirls" took on new meaning as the chorus members placed their hands on each others' shoulders and stood together as brothers. The group further honored their past with a touching remembrance of deceased chorus members. As they sang a heartfelt "I Shall Miss Loving You" from When We No Longer Touch, the names of their departed brothers were projected on a scrim downstage. To close out the first act, the men shed their tuxedo jackets to reveal choir robes underneath and burst into a rousing rendition of the traditional "Down By The Riverside" replete with gospel fervor.
Presenting the phenomenal vocalist Linda Eder was a major coup for the BGMC and her appearance after intermission put the proceedings over the top. From the moment she sashayed onto the stage in her strapless plum gown, she owned the crowd, nearly 2500 strong. Her first offering (from her recent CD "By Myself: The Songs of Judy Garland") was a medley of Lerner and Loewe's "Almost Like Being in Love" with Rodgers and Hart's "This Can't Be Love" and she immediately demonstrated why she is referred to as a diva, as in divine. Of course, the gay boys love Miss Garland, but they were just as appreciative when Ms. Eder did "Someone Like You," the song that put her on the map from "Jekyll and Hyde." Her voice has a unique quality that defies description, but suffice to say it was a thrill to hear her do this one live.
Backed by a first-rate combo and John Oddo, her Musical Director/Pianist, Linda's song selection was eclectic, ranging from Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" to "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell, the latter in a sweet duet with drummer Clint deGanon. She shared a bit about her personal life and the difficulties of being a performer (read: night person) while raising a seven-year old and having to get him on the school bus early in the morning. "I'm not sure if I butter his homework and put his toast in his school folder," she said humorously before singing Celine Dion's poignant "If I Could" in honor of her son Jake.
More Garland ("Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart/The Trolley Song") and a beautiful Frank Wildhorn (Linda's former husband) tune "This Time Around" wrapped up her solo segment before the 150 men of the Chorus joined her for a three-song finale. Disregarding potential comparisons to another diva, they started with "Don't Rain On My Parade" from "Funny Girl" which was both different from Barbra's version and great in its own right. Man, can Linda hold onto a note! She was rewarded with a standing ovation as the love fest continued. Next came a stirring interpretation of "Anthem" from "Chess" (by the Abba duo of Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson) and, speaking of anthems, "I Am What I Am" from "La Cage aux Folles" as the piece de resistance. The power of the voices of this talented woman and the dynamic chorus combined to bring down the house. It was exhilarating and would have been a great way to end the concert, but the crowd wanted more. Linda obliged by coming back for an impromptu encore of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," accompanied by Oddo and the melodic humming of her backup boys.
This was a night to remember and to celebrate: to honor the past and the memories and achievements of those who came before; to celebrate 25 years of commitment to a mission of creating a more tolerant society through the power of music; to rejoice in the evolution of the gay rights movement, especially in Massachusetts; to appreciate the musicality, comedy, poignancy, and sheer joy of the performances. The audience received an outstanding treat from the Boston Gay Men's Chorus and Linda Eder, but it must be stated that this was also an exceptional audience. It wouldn't have been the same without them and I'm delighted to have been a member.
BGMC: Mark Pucci, Bass; Robert Schulz, Drums; Michelle Chasse, Choreographer
Linda Eder: John Oddo, Musical Director/Pianist; Clint DeGanon, Drums; Edward Howard, Bass; David Mann, Woodwinds; Keith Cotton, Keyboard; Jeffery Osborne, Production & Tour Manager