By Megan Browne Helm Tue, Dec 08, 2009
It was “two, two, two concerts in one” at the Folly Theatre in Kansas City. The Heartland Men’s Chorus looking polished in blue vests, bow ties and boutonnieres sang a traditional carol program in the first half, followed by….wow. Keep reading. Never having been to a HMC concert before, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The first half was pleasantly predictable. Sounding a bit like the Harvard glee club, the all male chorus, accompanied by cello, harp and grand piano presented well sung traditional arrangements of songs for the season. The Morten Lauridsen piece Ave Dulcissima Maria was particularly lush and well blended and the Three Hanukkah songs arranged by Charles Baker sounded strong and heroic.
The Holly and the Ivy was “conducted” by Bobbi Schreiber who had the highest bid for the honor at the HMC annual fundraiser, A Dinner of Note. In a stunning, sparkly red shirt, she waved her hands in an adorably inaccurate two pattern, confusing the Chorus in a delightful way. Conductor, Dr. Joesph P. Nadeau had better luck with this group he so expertly prepared. Special mention must be given to sign language interpreter, Rick McAdams who uses his hands, face and body in an engaging, musical way.
Concocting the fruitcake from a special recipe for holiday cheer, Julia occasionally sipped from an oversized wine glass. The tasty piece Fruitcake by Hageman and Leka, was a fascinating mix of musical ingredients sung by the different sections of the Choir, overlapping in cannon. Sung together with Christmas is Delicious and It’s the Most Fattening Time of the Year, I ate it all up with a spoon.
It wasn’t until the second half, when the scrim descended and a cozy living room complete with chandeliers and fireplace was projected, that I realized I had been transported into a 1970′s Christmas Special.
The Very Special Christmas Special was a clever amalgamation of some of the weirdest retro Christmas variety show moments. Narrator, Tom Lancaster, played the surprisingly well adjusted Bernard. Growing up in Los Angeles, the product of a Hollywood divorce, he spent too much time watching old Christmas Specials on VHS while drinking mint juleps with his screenwriter mother. This premise links all of the wonderfully silly pieces that make up the second half.
Who but the Heartland Men’s Chorus could assemble 12 people capable of recreating the voices of John Denver and the Muppets so perfectly? Standouts from this half included Miss Piggy (Anthony Francisco), Bing Crosby (Keith Wiedenkeller), and Princess Leia (Kelly Marzett).
The oddest part was hearing Handel’s Alleluia Chorus sung over fuzzy footage of Dynasty divas Krystle and Alexis, as they beat the bejeebers out of each other. Explained as, what happens when you try to tape the Mormon Tabernacle Choir over an old episode of Dynasty, the effect was surreal. Maybe that was pushing it a little far but I appreciate artists who aren’t afraid to take risks.
Overall, the concert offered audiences the best of both Christmas worlds, traditional and wacky retro. I wish I could go back for a second helping. Fruitcake never tasted so good.