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Sacred Harmonies From the Golden Gate Men's Chorus

Golden Gate Men’s Chorus

Date: Tue May 12, 2009 (All day)

Quality is a given when it comes to the Golden Gate Men’s Chorus (GGMC). First and foremost, its director for the last 13 years has been Joseph Jennings, longtime music director of Chanticleer. Even if you don’t know the repertoire, which is most likely the case with the chorus’s forthcoming concert of "Sacred Harmonies," the fact that Jennings has chosen it insures that beautiful, oft-compelling discoveries are in store.Chief among the attractions of the forthcoming concert, which will be held in the glorious acoustic of the Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco, is the U.S. premiere of contemporary Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miškinis’ 10-movement Magnificat for men’s chorus and organ. Born in 1954, Miškinis is artistic director of the Azuoliukas Boys’ and Men Choir, professor of choral conducting at the Lithuanian Academy of Music, and president of the Lithuanian Choral Union. Although recordings of his music are hard to come by, we are assured by long-time chorus member LaMont Ridgell that his Magnificat is “very melodic.” When the GGMC sang Miškinis’ Te Lucis at the Association of Gay and Lesbian Choruses Convention last summer, they received a standing ovation.

While composers Hugo Wolf and Felix Mendelssohn are household names to the initiated, few know either Wolf’s Six Spiritual Songs on poems by Joseph von Eichendorff or Mendelssohn’s four movement sacred cantata for men’s chorus, Es Werde Licht. A diligent search on iTunes reveal 30-second clips of the Wolf, performed in SATB form, which are as warm and lovely as can be. In this performance, rearranged for male voices, Jerome Lenk will play the basilica’s Allen organ.

Jennings has also chosen even more obscure repertoire for the concert, including Dixit Dominus Domino Meo by Lajos Bárdos and two works that take full advantage of Mission Dolores’ antiphonal, “surround sound” capacity, Salve Regina by Renaissance composer Andreas Hakenberger, and Amen by living composer Dan Forrest. Rounding out the program is the “hauntingly beautiful” Milost Mira (A Mercy of Peace) by Soviet composer Nikolai Golovanov.

The 50-member all-male GGMC, originally known as the Dick Kramer Gay Men’s Chorale when gay chorus pioneer Kramer founded it in 1982, attempts to reflect the ethnic and social diversity of San Francisco. Jennings has promoted such a high degree of musical proficiency among its members that the GGMC frequently tackles challenging repertoire that other community choruses tend to avoid. This is a great opportunity to discover wonderful music rarely performed in this country.

Jason Victor Serinus regularly reviews music and audio for Stereophile, SFCV, Classical Voice North America, AudioStream, American Record Guide, and other publications. The whistling voice of Woodstock in She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown, the longtime Oakland resident now resides in Port Townsend, Washington.