Enchantingly Wicked With the S.F. Gay Men's Chorus

Marianne Lipanovich on March 7, 2012
SF Gay Men's Chorus
S.F. Gay Men's Chorus at Davies Symphony Hall

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus is a San Francisco fixture. And Stephen Schwartz is a musical theater fixture. While normally neither the Chorus nor Schwartz would be covered in the classical music genre, when they combine for two nights at Davies Symphony Hall, it will be an event that should grab the attention of those who love all types of music.

The centerpiece of the program is the premiere of Testimony, which Schwartz wrote specifically for the Chorus after discussions about the upcoming program featuring his songs. It’s based on the nationwide “It Gets Better” project, and Schwartz worked closely with Dan Savage, the project founder, to find the right text pieces to include in the work. Chorus Executive Director Teddy Witherington calls it “an astonishing, extraordinary piece of music.” He continues, “It will have a profound effect. And I’m not prone to hyperbole. I leave that to my artistic director.“

Artistic Director Dr. Tim Seelig concurs, saying: “Testimony is a stunning, gorgeous choral work. It’s eight minutes long, with 15 soloists. Each soloist has a short phrase from the ‘It Gets Better’ project. Then it is woven together and comes to a complex and massive finale.”

There’s no doubt, according to Seelig, that the program’s most recognizable numbers are iconic songs from Schwartz’s musical theater works, such as Godspell, including a revised version of “Beautiful City,” “Wicked,” and “Pippin.” Other songs will be from films such as Enchanted, The Prince of Egypt, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Pocahontas.

But, Seelig adds, there are certainly parts of the program that will appeal to a classical music audience. Probably the most notable is its guest artist, soprano Melody Moore. Having performed with the Chorus in its holiday concert, she couldn’t wait to work with them again, she comments, and the feeling was mutual. She’ll be performing two arias from Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon. It’s a work she’s familiar with, for she debuted the role (in the opera) of Rita Clayton with New York City Opera.

The program also features The Choral Project, directed by Daniel Hughes. They’ll be performing another Schwartz piece, “Kéramos,” which they commissioned from him. Selig describes it as an elegant, sophisticated chorale.

Rounding out the program is Stephen Schwartz himself. He’ll be at the piano, performing a couple of pieces from his solo CDs, which are most likely unfamiliar to most concertgoers but well worth a listen. And you may get a glimpse of Mac Huff, Schwartz’s official arranger and a Monterey resident, in the audience.

If you can’t make the concert, don’t despair. The Chorus has recorded Testimony at Skywalker Ranch, with multi-Grammy-winning producer Leslie Anne Jones. It will be available on YouTube, on DVD, and at iTunes after the concert.