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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 13, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 15
SMC & SWC present powerful and uplifting concert at 'Not in Our Town'
Arts & Entertainment
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SMC & SWC present powerful and uplifting concert at 'Not in Our Town'

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

SEATTLE MEN'S CHORUS &
SEATTLE WOMEN'S CHORUS
'NOT IN OUR TOWN'
MARION OLIVER MCCAW HALL
April 7 & 8


A very cohesive and well-programmed choral event was performed this last weekend at McCaw Hall, featuring both the Men's and Women's Choruses and national political satirist Randy Rainbow. The theme was more overtly political than many an SMC or SWC concert in the past and the song choices were determined and filled with themes of love and acceptance for marginalized people than many a SMC or SWC concert in the past.

The power of 300 plus men and women on stage made for some gorgeous harmonies with lush interplay. Each of the choruses also had their own moments to shine. The occasional dance number inclusions were tight and well danced and the soloists were simply marvelous.

The first number included video narration with quotes about freedom and political activism which set the context for the entire evening. Musical theater performers Andi Alhadeff, Sarah Russell and Dimitri Jai Woods recited video-taped quotes while both choruses sang 'With Voices Raised' along with musical theater performer Aaron Shanks, whose voice soared.

That was followed by the heart-rending 'Not in Our Town,' a song about a significant rise in overt anti-Semitism and bigotry in Billings, Montana in 1993.

[http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/a-stone-ignites-a-community-billings-stood-up-to-white/article_1595787b-b44f-5a4f-b7b2-3a18e77615b7.html] A documentary about these events, Not in Our Town, was first broadcast on PBS in December 1995, and then Fred Small wrote the song. Scott Farrell, a frequent Choruses guest solo artist and vocal/public speaking coach (http://www.harmonicoasis.com/), lent his strong voice and emotional delivery to the song.

The chorus to the song is:

One moment of conviction, one voice quiet and clear,
One act of compassion, it all begins here.
No safety now in silence, we've got to stand our ground.
No hate. No violence. Not in our town.


After that, the women left the stage to the Men's Chorus and they sang 'This Is Me,' 'Home,' 'Uprising of Love' (with a terrific solo by chorus member Lisa Brown) and Pink's 'Raise Your Glass.'

Randy Rainbow, the special guest artist, brought even more of a hard-edged politics into the event. His national claim to fame was a campaign-time takedown song parody of Trump via the well-known song, 'Supercalifragilisticexpiallodocious,' which he calls 'Braggadocious' and which he performed to much laughter and enjoyment in the second act.

He started out, though, with a newer parody, 'Russian Connection,' with new words for the 'Rainbow Connection' of Kermit fame. Then he parodied the musical Hamilton's 'The Room Where it Happened,' as he sang about how he would have liked to be in the room where DT Jr. and all the Russians were meeting to talk about adoptions. There was no ambiguity at all in his parody choices. He played right to the full #Resistance crowd.

The second act featured the Women's Chorus alone on stage for many songs, including more declarations about shunning racism and hate and embracing love and self-confidence, like 'Hate Has No Home Here,' 'Firework' by Katy Perry, and 'Sweeping Through the City,' a gospel song about the worthy getting into Heaven with a solo by Robin D. Henderson. Henderson was so dynamic and engaging and fun that she brought the whole audience to their feet after her turn soloing with the Women. She's a well-known gospel singer in that world with multiple albums (http://www.robinhendersonministries.org/) and if Paul Caldwell is listening, she could totally be a great guest artist for an entire evening, herself!

Randy Rainbow found himself completely upstaged for his second act moment by Henderson's dynamic blast. The programming might have been adjusted for that reason.

The Men returned to join with the Women for the last part of the second act, ending the official set with 'Soweto: June, 1976' and a beautiful solo by chorus member Victoria Williams. The song focused on a famous moment in South African recent history when the youth of that country started a government protest, which mobilized the rest of the populace after children began to get killed by government forces. Paul Caldwell co-arranged the song, and his choice to end the evening with that song emphasized his support of a lot of the political protesting going on in our country with the youth mobilizing the rest of us around gun violence.

It was a very satisfying evening, and seemed to signal a new 'gloves off' kind of attitude about speaking the choral mind. The Choruses have often been a bit 'political' and always have supported social justice issues, but this program felt more 'in your face' about saying so. It will be interesting to see what kinds of programming come next from the mind of Seattle Choruses Artistic Director Paul Caldwell.

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