Performance mixes classical and electronic on stage

Featuring the electronic sounds of DJ John Tejada, the 100-plus voices of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles positively glittered in the group’s third show, Saturday night at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Photo courtesy of Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles

The well-dressed chorus members displayed their impressive vocal arrangements for three hours, hitting some definite high and low notes through the show, titled “Sure on this Shining Night.” In his last show with the choir, the interim artistic director and conductor Dominic Gregorio created a night of music that was both classic and contemporary. Gregorio served three years with the chorus, which has been performing for 32 years.

A collection of seven songs kicked off the affair including a performance of the event’s title piece, “Sure On This Shining Night.” While beautifully harmonic and impressive, the block of songs seemed to melt together at certain points, lacking breaks for the performers and the audience.

A sharp turn into opera songs lifted the show, however, and the energy was consistently higher thereafter. The booming operatic voice of chorus member DJ Pick was unmatched until Act 2, when the GMCLA Gay Straight Alliance Youth Choir came onstage and injected childlike life into the show.

In drastically more colorful attire than the GMCLA, the young singers proved that Glee-style singing is just as amazing in person as on television. With renditions of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” and Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” the young choir lifted the audience out of its seats.

A standout young lady with pink hair and a markedly sassy walk proved to be an immediate crowd pleaser with her bringing-down-the-house Aretha Franklin voice. While the young choir lacked the polish of the men’s choir, its charisma and energy outshined any small shortcomings the group possessed harmonically.

The notable GMCLA pianist Michael Alfera proved his immense talent with some skillful beat boxing during the youth choir’s performance. His presence onstage was supremely entertaining from that point forward, as he effortlessly switched gears from piano to microphone.

Tejada’s debut song with the GMCLA, titled “The End of It All,” was 10 minutes of purely eclectic sound. The dramatic, techno-infused piece managed to be harsh and at the same time melodic, and oddly enough, it was the choir that ended up sounding harsh. By adding staccato, one word vocals to the melodious electronic background, the choir creating a unified but striking piece that managed to challenge the audience’s perception of both the choir and electronic music.

The chorus’s executive director, Hywel W. Sims, interjected to narrate several parts of the show, telling the audience that Tejada had actually changed the date of his wedding in order perform with the choir that night.

While Tejada was touted as the extraordinary part of this event, it was not his piece that was the most impactful. The chorus’ rendition of The Harvey Milk School’s Project story was a telling and poignant one. Harvey Milk was one of the most successful gay rights activists.

As the choir outlined Milk’s journey, a deep sense of appreciation for what he had done for every man in the chorus — advocating for gay rights when few others were speaking out — was palpable. Using minimal props, certain members of the choir retold Harvey Milk’s story with eloquent narration and impressively tailored movement. It quickly became apparent then that many of the men were not just singers but highly talented actors as well.

The choir closed with two songs, “True Colors” and “Will You Be There,” which the audience gave two standing ovations. The youth choir joined to perform again, and the audience erupted into applause often.

As Gregorio left the stage for the last time, he didn’t look back to the chorus members, many of whom were visibly emotional over his departure, but walked away from his masterful work of the last three years with power and grace — the same way he had carried himself as a conductor of the GMCLA that night.

Correction: 8/31/10 – A previous version of this article misidentified chorus member DJ Pick.  The error has been corrected and the story has been updated to reflect this change.  The Daily Trojan sincerely regrets the error.

1 reply
  1. Dominic Gregorio
    Dominic Gregorio says:

    The reviewer should read the program a bit more carefully before publishing. The tenor’s name is “D.J. Pick” not “Prick”; a very embarrassing mistake. The Daily Trojan writer also fails to mention that all of the featured musicians are USC Thornton School of Music students: the conductor, the pianists/ beatboxer, the percussionists, soloists.

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