It seems like just yesterday that the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus made its debut, not long after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
They sang, if I remember right, "How Can I Keep From Singing?", the Quaker hymn that has become their signature song. And "Standing On the Corner, Watching All The Guys Go By." You could say that it has been a long journey.
But it sure hasn't been boring.
The BGMC has been a tremendous addition to Buffalo's cultural scene. Not only is this one heck of a chorus, but every BGMC concert seems to turn into a night to remember.
This weekend, the chorus is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a comprehensive concert Friday in Buffalo's Unitarian Universalist Church and repeats tonight in Westminster Presbyterian Church.
The first half is a set of new material. The longer second half is a trip down the chorus' impeccably landscaped memory lane. Led by their director, Barbara Wagner, and joined by their intrepid, admirable accompanist, Debi Overton, they begin with "How Can I Keep From Singing?" and continue with Morten Lauridsen's sweet, lyrical "Dirait-On," Verdi's dramatic "La Vergine degli Angeli" (with soprano Jennifer Grace-Mernitz) and Holly Near's "Our Love Is Soaring Across the Land."
The journey continues with Faure's reverent "Cantique de Jean Racine," and "El Yivneh Hagalil," a riotous, infectious Israeli-themed anthem. In between is my favorite, "Non Nobis Domine," the warlike hymn by Patrick Doyle to which Ken Branagh strode through the human carnage in "Henry V." Other gems include two of the six "Adamic Songs" the chorus commissioned from Roland Martin, who leads the Freudig Singers. Set to poetry by Walt Whitman, the songs are immediately lovely. They draw you in with their tenderness. Martin knows how to write for chorus, and he also includes beautiful interplay between bassoon and clarinet (played by BPO bassoonist Glenn Einschlag and Peter C. Smith).
We also hear "To A Stranger," another Whitman setting by Buffalo's Martin J. Wimmer. Whitman would be proud of the treatment our guys are giving his poetry.
The BGMC has a unique way of keeping things moving. They'll switch from one style to another, add a soloist, have some of the choristers sing solo. When they did "Can't Stop The Beat," from "Hairspray," they even threw in what they called "choral-ography" -- hand gestures, mostly, but to tremendous comic effect. What a spectacle.
The singers mix it up. You get novelties, songs you'll never hear live anywhere else.
Let's hear it for the boys! It's great fun to partake of their celebration. If you go, though, be advised that it is a long concert. It repeats tonight at 8 in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave.
Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus
Winter concert Friday night in Unitarian Universalist Church, 695 Elmwood Ave. Another performance at 8 tonight in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave.