In our arrangement the tenors sing the first verse in a hushed unison, as though you were hearing the echoes of their holiday revelry wafting toward you over a snowy hill. The baritones and basses join in on the second verse, chanting "wassail, wassail" in a simple unison continuo under the melody. As the verse dies away, the lower voices drop to an open fifth, drumming the opening "wassail" rhythm on a D and a low G in disciplined restraint ...
... until the entire chorus explodes into the third verse in a glorious A-flat modulation. As the baritones and basses keep pounding out the "wassail" rhythm, the melody—now slightly syncopated as we toast Dobbin and his right eye—soars across the tenor voices in a bright mezzo-forte third. The drinking party has suddenly crested that snowy hill, the sun has come out and the world is full of promise.
And in that single flash of brightness, our conductor always—always—breaks into a big goofy smile. The arrangement we're singing is his, and in that moment—that big, boisterous explosion of harmony and rhythm and simple counterpoint—as he indulges himself in the lush materialization of of his creative work, I too stand reveling in the beauty of it all from my perch at the end of the back row. We are 100+ gay men whose lives and talents and careers and incomes span the spectrum of human experience. But in this joyous confluence, we are one voice, celebrating an ancient camaraderie captured in a song that dates to the Middle Ages. And to me, moments like this are what make life life.
* * * * *The show opens tonight. And it closes tomorrow. You have three chances to experience this moment with me. So click HERE to order your tickets. Or go HERE for more information about the show.
Here's a quick peek at last night's final dress rehearsal. Act I finds us in red accents to our basic black-and-white concert attire. Because we're nothing if not festive.
Act II is all about green accents. Which apparently don't reproduce well under the theater's work lights. Here we are getting notes after the runthrough. Notice how happy we look. That's because the show is clean and tight, and we've breezed through every rehearsal this week. Yay!
And, of course, it wouldn't be a Chicago Gay Men's Chorus show without a guy in drag. Or two. This is my view from the wings as I wait to make my grand entrance among seven dancing couples in the very, very, very gay corps de Christmas Waltz: