I didn't get to see as many Christmas-related shows this year as I would have liked, so I was very grateful to be thrown a press ticket to the New York City Gay Men's Chorus's annual holiday concert in Carnegie Hall, held this year on Thursday, December 20. I sang with the chorus for about seven years, so I can attest that this celebration is a very important part of the holidays for both its 150-or-so members and the audiences who pack the hall each year. This was the group's first concert under its brand new artistic director/conductor, Jeffrey Maynard, and it was quite an auspicious debut.
NYCGMC has a reputation for featuring the best in celebrity guests to spice up its programs; the tremendously long list of famous artists who have performed with the chorus over the years includes opera legend Marilyn Horne, cabaret goddesses Nancy LaMott and Mary Cleere Haran, and theater and film stars ranging from Stockard Channing to Marni Nixon to Eartha Kitt to B.D. Wong to Kristin Chenoweth to the original Broadway cast of Falsettoland. This year's special guest was the fabulous Sam Harris, who blew everyone away with three numbers of his own arrangement in the concert's second half: "Little Drummer Boy," "Santa's Blues," and "A World of Difference." He was backed for the first and third of these numbers by the NYCGMC subgroup Uptown Express, and by the entire chorus for "A World of Difference."
Harris wasn't the only guest on hand. Metropolitan Opera soprano Sondra Radvanovsky shone as a soloist in "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and in a generous medley of Christmas favorites. And Richard Skipper, in the guise of the one-and-only Carol Channing, regaled the audience as he and Uptown Express performed a fun arrangement of "Santa Baby" in a section of the concert wittily entitled "A Christmas Carol." Aside from the contributions of Harris and Skipper, the chorus demonstrated a wonderful blend in music ranging from serious works by Anton Bruckner and Morten Lauridsen to more contemporary fare by Carole Bayer Sager, Edgar Colón-Hernandez, and Joseph Martin. The well-chosen encore, which resulted in quite an ovation, was a terrific arrangement of "Christmas in Manhattan" into one of the chorus's signature songs, "New York, New York." I'm glad I was there.
For more information on the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, click here.
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