Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Choir of Man

The Choir of Man … my first thought was what kind of a cult is that.  When my wife asked if I wanted to go, I thought, what? To listen to hours of religious music, no thank you.  My wife insisted, “you will really enjoy it”.  You guessed it, she was right.  What a performance!

No, the set on the stage of the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe was not a church but rather an Irish Pub.  Here I must digress to explain where I am coming from.  A bar to me is a crowded dark room where you push your way to the bar grab, grab, grab until someone hands you two drinks and then push, push, push your way back so that you can drink with your mate while being jostled around so that per chance there will be a place to sit down.  

A pub, however, has a far more convivial atmosphere with plenty of tables and not bad fare.  When I lived in London in the 1960’s I went to a pub for lunch every once in a while, though, to my chagrin, I do not care for beer, which is a must to have the whole experience.  There is one thing common to both, the bar and the pub, a much-used privy, and that was included in the Choir of Man’s performance. When was the last time you saw three men pissing on stage or at least the illusion thereof? Yes, we did actually see the piss ... gross?  Not with these jolly gentlemen.  For some reason I could not find a photo on line!  But I assure you the scene was modest but hilarious.

The Choir of Man starts their performance by inviting the entire audience (in the case of the Lensic, over 800 people) to come up on stage for a tankard of beer, or as they would say in Britain, a pint!  This festivity lasts for about 15 minutes by which time the audience is properly warmed up to enjoy the show even more, though it is difficult to know how that is possible.  

Like any good theater the show looks completely spontaneous.  In fact, it all began when the director, Nic Dodson, came upon an Irish pub where patrons had gathered with their instruments to sing and play. He developed a theatrical production through workshops and a casting call.  After they were given the basic idea for the show the professional cast members built it around their own musical tastes and talents. The original plan was to do the show in an actual pub.  From what I gather it was done in a pub or two and then brought to the stage.   Listening to our audience it was clear that many knew a lot more of these English, Irish and Scottish songs than I did. But there was also an occasional show tune or popular song.

The show has only been in existence since 2017 and this was their first tour of the States. This year they will also appear in Australia, UK and Europe.  It must be hard enough just to act on a worldwide tour but to be asked to jump and shout and appear sunny faced to an audience 24/7 must be a hell of a strain and a gift!

The Choir of Man may look like a burly lot but are they ever talented!  They all have good voices and at the performance we saw there was a wonderful tap dance performance.  While a piano and a couple of guitars are always onstage other instruments kept appearing including a banjo, ukulele, violin and accordion.  Various real and improvised drums (actually boxes) were used for percussion Even bagpipes were played, mercifully briefly.  In another version they produced a trumpet as well.  Having stomped around the stage with the others the bagpipe player was quite winded and took a moment before joining more song.  During tours around the country where they are playing a different house every night or two it can be a shock when you suddenly are singing and dancing at an altitude of nearly 7,000 feet. Santa Fe is at the same altitude as St. Moritz, Switzerland! 

The cast of nine was moving around so much that I found myself continuously counting how many people were actually on stage. For instance, the tap dancer must have slipped offstage to remove his taps before he rejoined the group singing and dancing.  Then they brought some audience members up to the stage and gave them small roles.  One critic wrote “for this, at times, cheesy, sing-a-long show and there are plenty who enjoy their moment on stage, some even taking their moment slightly too far… “. At the performance we saw one gentleman from the audience augmented his role when he mouthed the words along with the singer of “The Impossible Dream” from “The Man from La Mancha”!  Here is a different show using the audience in a slightly different manner.

Behind the merriment, however, there is message.  The latest statistics show that every week in the UK eighteen pubs are closing which has a detrimental effect on community spirit and increases incidence of loneliness (especially in men). 

In closing, enjoy this last short video ... it will give you a taste of the music and energy of The Choir of Man. 

No comments:

Post a Comment