Since 1995 the Triangle Gay Men's Chorus has regaled Triangle audiences and beyond with their rich blend of male voices and their effervescent charm. In my 2010 review of their Christmas concert, I referred to the then nineteen-member chorus as "sensational." In their celebration comments of twenty years of singing, reference was made to the good times and the hard times and an acknowledgement that right now is a hard time, Down to only nine current members, they made an impassioned appeal for more singers to come on board and for financial support. Indeed this group has had a powerful influence on many lives and has provided pleasant entertainment for multitudes. Come on, guys; make some time for singing. You will be the richer for it (and so will we).
This evening's concert at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Durham was labeled "Viva to the Divas" and was based on tunes made popular by some of the well-known super-star singers of the forties and up to contemporary. The first selection was a rousing rendition of "Everything's Coming up Roses" from Jule Styne's Gypsy. We remembered the inimitable Ethel Merman, even though the words were changed to "This is our concert for Divas." Elvis Presley was remembered with a polished arrangement of his hit "Can't Help Falling in Love with You," nicely sung by the chorus. A moving arrangement of "The Rose" for unaccompanied chorus, always associated with the divine Bette Midler, was a hit with the audience.
Special guest artist Judy Bruno is widely known for her singing, vocal characterizations and her effectiveness as an educator in the vocal arts. Her first selection was a saucy arrangement of the unique Eartha Kitt's trademark "C'est si bon." Her performance was a master class in what you call "selling the song."
The Triangle Gay Men's Chorus was led by Dr. Jay Pierson, Interim Artistic Director. Accompaniment on piano and electric keyboard was effectively provided by Aaron Thacker; Blake Wagner provided percussion.
The icon of American song, stage and movies, Judy Garland was represented by an impressive arrangement by Conductor Pierson of "Over the Rainbow / True Colors." Tammy Wynette's trademark hit "Stand by Your Man" was done with a little bit of country, electronic organ, traps and some nice solos by members of the chorus.
Guest artist Michener Howell displayed his powerful tenor vocal skills in a convincing performance of "He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands" in memory of the ground-breaking Marian Anderson.
Bruno returned in the second half of the concert with Cher's hit "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves." Jay Schoonover sang an intimate "Evergreen" – Barbara Striesand, of course. W. Arthur Herring, Jr. and Edward Farmer shared solo work in "I Will Always Love You / I’ll Be There."
Each piece was introduced by Maestro Pierson or a member of the chorus. Some of the introductory remarks were unnecessarily detailed and other spoken comments, tributes and ceremonies seemed off-the-cuff and dragged the program on.
There was some fine singing and some selections that needed a little more work. Perhaps this is a low point for TGMC. In spite of that, it was a pleasant and enjoyable evening. Let’s support them and trust that the future holds promise for fruition of the special potential this group has to offer. TGMC is still a winning ticket; even as an octet.
The concert repeats at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh on Sunday, June 7 at 3:00 PM.