The Sacramento Choral Calendar
Sacramento Gay Men's Chorus
Puttin' on the Glitz - June 10, 2017
by Dr. Jeff Nelson
This afternoon matinee was the 2nd of 4 shows by the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus held at the Elks Tower Ballroom. There was a little confusion about the start time of the show since the tickets said 12:30 but the performance actually started at 2 p.m. Here a little early? Why not buy some chips for the gaming tables on both floors and play Black Jack, Poker or Craps? Gaming was set up by Signature Casino Parties, and you can find them at 916-339-7296 or see them online at SignatureCasinoParties.com. You could also purchase squares for the money raffle or spin the roulette wheel for more prizes. How about some Mardi Gras beads for your chance at an iPad? Two full bars were also on site. They turned the ballroom into a Vegas showroom floor, complete with Sinatra “Rat Pack”-era music filling the hall. I was astonished at how good it looked and wondered how many man-hours it required. The lighting, sound and stage were perfect, complete with an upstairs balcony orchestra for accompaniment! They also had a roving “Roy” (of Siegfried and Roy) puppeteer with a mini striped lion. We were ushered into the ballroom by gentlemen dressed to the nines in black-tie tuxedos. This group really went over the top to get everything just right.
I was early and soon Chris Huber (President of the SGMC Board of Directors) and Jason Petit (SGMC’s Executive Director) came over and introduced themselves. No doubt they all were happy to see the fruition of what looked like many, many months of planning finally coming together.
(Click here to open the program in a new window. The 32GB file may be slow in opening.)
Corey Hubert soon took center stage for his opening remarkable solo of “Luck Be a Lady.” Led by Ms. Kay Alteri, the orchestra followed with the familiar and exciting upbeat rhythms of the song while the entire chorus filed in through the audience singing as they went. What a great opener! These men not only had a musical juggernaut in Steven Johnson as their Artistic Director behind the podium with his scrolling musical iPad, they were also dancing with choralography while singing with everything memorized! (Unless your chorus has excellent “stage presence” and the ability to move and smile on the risers, you need to see the SGMC at work.)
Their next piece was “The Lady Is a Tramp” led by Alteri’s smoking-hot balcony orchestra, with a solo by Scott Kinderwater and joined by Paul Graham doing the puppeteering work for a very clever and fun presentation.
The set-up for lighting and sound was a very complex arrangement, which included stationary, handheld and mobile mics on two separate floors, and it was all handled ably by Amp’d Entertainment.
The entire afternoon was ASL-signed by Andy Atkinson from Signs of Pride, and I would go to a concert just to watch her sign. She told the story not just with her signing but with her entire spirit, and her artistry in signing matched the superb level of entertainment.
“Under the Boardwalk,” “Danke Schoen,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (complete with Steven Johnson on piano as Elton John) and “Garbage,” were performed by Boy Howdy, a talented 13-member subset of the chorus. Several of the pieces were a cappella, and the singers’ attention to tonal center, delivery and choreography were excellent. They also had surprising volume for this size of an ensemble, and their harmonies were well-balanced and beautiful.
A sequin-suited Steven Johnson expertly accompanied soloist Heather Mercer on the Yamaha baby grand for a nice arrangement of “You Needed Me.”
“It’s Not Unusual” was a very high-energy arrangement and included two feather-fan dancers who were spectacular. Many of the SGMC arrangements were by Monseur and Sarsany, and I will be on the lookout for more of their excellent work. They have certainly taken men’s chorus arrangements to a higher level.
James Dalen then treated us all to a PERFECTLY imitated Elvis-style solo in “Viva Las Vegas.” Again, the choreography by Corey Hubert and Darryl Strohl was really action-packed, and this chorus delivered the knock-out punch by exiting in a conga line out the door to conclude Act 1. You could easily have felt at this point that you had received your money’s worth…NOPE!...two more acts to go!
Petit then introduced the afternoon’s beneficiary charity, the Front Street Animal Shelter, and their representative showed off an adorable kitten that was ready to be adopted!
During the intermissions, wonderful jazz music, e.g. from Harry Connick and Artie Shaw, played over the loudspeakers.
Act 2 began with the baby grand open, bedecked with large flower decorations and orange and green floodlights. The entire chorus conga’d back in to the strains of “Copacabana,” led by soloist Kevin Alverson and the gorgeous two dancers in “Copa” outfits. The wardrobe change for the men was now white tux shirts, pastel-colored suspenders and matching cravats.
Had I not seen the next part, I would have had a hard time believing or describing it. Steven Johnson came down the middle of the audience in a sparkling chariot drawn by two “Casino Hunks” in gold spandex shorts à la Caesar’s Palace. It appears that SGMC will spare no expense in treating their audiences to a spectacular show! Johnson was dressed in a sequined and floral suit with dazzling silver shoes and was introduced as “Steverace!” He sat down at the piano and then played a sequence of Gershwin, children’s songs and other ad lib material, “Chariots of Fire,” etc. that made your jaw drop. He had total command of the instrument, and I was amazed he could make a baby grand sound that good. (It’s not as easy as it sounds.) He is truly a Sacramento artistic treasure, and SGMC is lucky to have him. His performance was “sweetened” by Elaine Lord (another wonderful Sacramento artist) on percussion.
Kay Alteri led an audience singalong while Lord (on hi-hat) and Harley White Jr. (on acoustic bass) set up on stage to accompany Johnson for some boogie-woogie piano. Is there any style Johnson can’t play? Alteri then traded places with Johnson at the piano to accompany Boy Howdy for the bluesy, “Garbage,” while they brought an unsuspecting audience member on stage for part of the fun. I loved the richness of the 7th chords in this piece.
SGMC’s special guests, the “Kinsey Sicks” opened their portion of the show with “I’m Wearing Sexy Underwear,” led by a powerful gospel solo by “Trampolina” (Spencer Brown as tenor 2). “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beauty Shop Quartet” also includes Nathan Marken on bass as “Winnie,” Ben Schatz on baritone as “Rachel” and Jeff Manabat on tenor 1 as “Trixie.” Most of their songs were started by pitch pipe and sung with total vocal command in a cappella style. It is easy to dismiss this quartet only as an “over the top,” drag comedy act with titles such as, “Rent a Homo” and the “Trump Edition” of “Addams Family/Brady Bunch/Green Acres,” etc. But as soon as they start singing, you realize their blend and their attention to detail are second to none. If you look at their website you realize that each of them have very serious vocal pedigrees which support their wonderful music and stage presence. Looking at their performance schedule also lets you know you have witnessed “Dragapella Greatness.” Again, SGMC’s choice to have these superb headliners was excellent.
Act 3 opened with the “Pink Man Group” doing a 3-man performance of the “Mysteries of Choralography” by Neil Treganza, with voiceover by Melinda Parrett. It was hilarious, witty and clever all at once.
The chorus then came out again in black pants, white jacket, and shirt with open collar, while Steven Johnson entered with a white, sequined fedora, white tails, pink cummerbund — and illuminated shoes. Each chorus member then donned illuminated glasses for “Poker Face.” Why bother describing the costumes for each act? Because this group’s attention to detail is impeccable and the clothes are just the beginning.
“To Love You More” had a beautiful solo by Alteri with Johnson on the piano and a male trio supporting her. She has great command as a soloist and pianist, and it was evident she and Johnson work well together.
The next piece, “Material Girl,” was one of the few of the evening that had a backup track instead of the live orchestra. I was a little disappointed, simply because this orchestra was so good that the track felt a little lackluster after all that terrific live music. Quickly returning to Alteri and the orchestra, the “Spice Up Your Life/Wannabe” medley got everything back on track.
David Simpson had a wonderful soulful solo with the chorus on “Man in the Mirror,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more about him in the future.
Spencer Brown then returned as Daisy Bucket (pronounced, “Bouquet”) à la Bette Midler for “From a Distance.” His vocal ability in this moving number was impressive on its own and wasn’t merely an impersonation.
Anderson closed the show with a wonderful arrangement of “My Way” with a powerhouse male trio of Daniel Spohr-Grimes, Andrew Gibout and Rick Wennstrom AND the dancing “Glitz Gals” up in the balcony with the orchestra. The audience response with a standing ovation was immediate, and chorus went into their encore selection of “Do You Believe in Life After Love?” The audience went to their feet again, and the show ended with a lot of smiles from the performers and the audience. I realized that this ensemble had just a short time to relax before they did the entire show again for an evening performance. If they survive this brutal schedule with more of these brilliant performances, I will look forward to seeing these talented musicians again!
Dr. Jeffrey Nelson as born in Seattle, WA and began studying music at the age of 5. He has sung in chamber, popular and theatrical groups and played in orchestral, jazz, symphonic and marching bands throughout his career. He also toured in Europe with the US Army for four years as a vocalist, instrumentalist and choreographer with the 7th Army Soldiers Chorus based in Heidelberg, Germany. He studied and worked with Fred Sautter and James DePriest (Oregon Symphony) and Dr. Bruce Browne (Portland Symphonic Choir) while studying Brass Performance and Conducting at Portland State University. He also studied with Anthony Plog (LA Philharmonic) and was a studio freelance trumpet and vocal artist in Los Angeles before moving with his wife Jennifer to Northern California. He has held conducting positions for Cantare Chorale, Gold Rush Men's Chorus and has been a guest conductor in D.C., Geneva, Switzerland, and Toronto, Canada with the VA National Medical Musical Group based in Washington, D.C. He currently teaches private instruction in trumpet, voice and guitar in Placerville, CA and is a music director for Church of the Foothills in Cameron Park.