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December 2, 2004

Chorus to deliver full plate of holiday music

Seattle Times (WA):

What's the recipe for 230 servings of lasagna? Ask the folks at Pavé. This restaurant and bakery caters dinner for the Seattle Men's Chorus when the chorus performs at the Everett Civic Auditorium each year. This year's concert, "Underneath the Mistletoe," will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Everett Civic Auditorium. Upstairs at the Everett High School cafeteria will sit 13 trays of lasagna, bowls of pasta salad and Caesar salad, fruit plates, desserts and beverages — all to be consumed by the 230 men in the chorus before they change into tuxedos for the concert.

"They practice all day long, eat this big meal and go on to perform," said Nan Wilkinson, who owns Pavé with Lil Miller. "By the time they get there, they've worked up quite an appetite. Those guys are hungry." The catering staff attends the chorus's annual concert each year, Wilkinson said, and "once you go, you're hooked." "Each year, it's so uniquely different. They're able to bring together traditional songs with their own flair. It's wonderful and funny and heartfelt and light all at the same time, a combination of all the feelings you get around Christmas."

The Seattle Men's Chorus is known for packaging choral singing with sets, costumes and a dramatic flow. "The joy that they have in singing, you can just feel it," said Maria Lamarca Anderson, a chorus spokeswoman. "There's an amazing thing that happens with the chorus. You laugh one minute; you're crying the next." The chorus has offered 80 programs during Coleman's directorship. "The development of the chorus from a total community chorus and nobody paid except me — and I was paid $200 a month — to a professional arts organization with 13 full-time staff makes us about the largest community-choral organization in the United States," Coleman said.

The 230 to 250 singers volunteer their time nine months a year to present three to four programs to about 40,000 ticket holders, Coleman said. Guest artists have included Bobby McFerrin, Maya Angelou, Rosemary Clooney and Frederica von Stade. Melissa Manchester will appear in the chorus's Dec. 5 and 6 concerts at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. The chorus will bring its entire show to Everett, including two of its associate groups: Captain Smartypants, a musical-theater ensemble, and Aedonis, an 18-voice close-harmony choir.

Since its inception 25 years ago, the chorus has traveled outside Seattle, performing this year in Bellingham, Everett, Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, Ellensburg and the Aberdeen-Hoquiam area. The chorus spreads money to social-service agencies throughout the state that way, Coleman said. "They are similar to a church choir in that they sing together in order to try to make a difference in their world," he said. "In their world as gay men, they want to sing to people both gay and straight, and sing in a powerful medium that we are more alike than we are different and that there is no reason for prejudicial treatment or fear." Coleman said much of what draws people to perform in the chorus is the high level of artistry expected. "Many of these men have been in the choir for 20 to 24 years. All of that, I think, comes across in their performance."

Posted by acapnews at December 2, 2004 12:04 AM