Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Looking Back on the April 23-24 Performances of “I Am Harvey Milk” at Strathmore

The performances were among the most successful and perhaps the most rewarding experiences we ever had as a chorus.  Audience reactions to our work was awesome!  For some of us who have been Harmonizers a long time, it ranks high on the list of “breathless moments;” and for new Harmonizers, it is likely the top of their list so far.


For months we have worked hard to prepare.  First off, thanks to director Joe Cerutti for having the faith (and courage) that we could do it.  Plus thank you for the hard work from associate director Tony Colosimo for helping teach us the music and preparing the learning materials; from Tom Jackson for our rehearsal piano accompaniment; and from Carlos Barillo for choreography coaching.


The faith and support from the folks at Stathmore in taking on the project and inviting us to be the chorus was a great thrill too.  We so much appreciated the help from executive producer Rolando Sanz in the weeks leading up to the performance; and the great team work we established with musical director and conductor Joel Fram; and the fun we had with choreographer Larry Keigwin. We also had camaraderie with the sixteen additional singers/dancers from NYC who joined us for the performances.


Certainly we must congratulate and thank Andrew Lippa for the words and music.  We have all been changed!


What a pleasure working with the other soloists Kristen Chenoweth (well known for her role in “Wicked”), and young Colin Wheeler who was the young boy Harvey Milk, and Andrew Lippa. Our portion of the performance was actually the second half of the nite following another oratorio titled “I Am Anne Hutchinson” which was also written by Andrew. All of the soloists were integrated into that music too.  This was the first-ever production of Anne Hutchinson.


For several months (the first learning tapes were posted for us in December of 2015) we have been having extra rehearsals and using half of our regular meeting nite time to work on this oratorio.  We also were joined by several men who auditioned to sing with us at Strathmore.  We affectionately called them “milkmen” and thank them for the extra hours to work on this with us.  They include Taylor Good, Nelson Robin, Aaron Watts, Larry Cohen, Masahisa Takahaski, Mario Sengco, Dan Hallada, Dan Kaufman, Mark Medrick, Ben Cherington, Joe Bremberg and Justin McCright. Some Harmonizers came back to sing with us too including Max Kieba and Geoff  Berman. There were 110 of us in black pants, shoes and a brilliant blue t-shirt we all wore. The chorus was in two rows on a balcony above the stage behind The National Philharmonic Orchestra.


Last week there were rehearsals with the whole cast, a couple of dress rehearsals with the orchestra and then Saturday nite at 8 pm and Sunday afternoon at 4 the concerts began.


We were all pleased to see so many of our patrons and family members and personal friends at the performance.  Marty Monson (CEO of the Barbershop Harmony Society) and his family drove from Nashville to be with us on Saturday nite. He and his son Luke stopped in to say hello to the chorus and thank us for making this leap into another musical world.  And our coach and friend Cindy Hansen took a red-eye flight from CA to be there on Sunday.


Of course it took a lot of coordination for this weekend to be a success and we thank our chapter’s executive director, Terry Reynolds, for keeping us informed.

At each gathering we did the usual warm ups with Tony; and then Joe and Tony helped us with spots to refresh or to help us adjust to the changes/suggestions from the conductor. Chorus manager Mark Klostermeyer kept us ready to be in the right place at the right time.


The Strathmore costume department helped us with our uniforms and prepared them between shows. The facility is a great venue and we all hope there will more opportunities to appear there.


After Sunday’s performance, we were honored to get a photo with Kristen Chenoweth.  Ken Rub took photos all weekend.  And of course almost every guy got a photo with his cell phone!


Thanks to chapter leaders including Clyde Crusenberry and Carl Kauffmann and many FRIENDS IN HARMONY for a fun afterglow nearby the venue after the Sunday show.  We were all plenty hungry and ate “a lot” of pizza! And we celebrated Joe’s birthday with cake and candles!


Until next time – editorjack!

(This message is prepared for your review if you were there, for your information if you had to miss, and as a historical record of the great things going on each week during the 67th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd


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