It snowed in Tucson this weekend, but you could only see it if you attended a performance of Reveille Men’s Chorus.
Their annual Christmas concert has the theme Snowed In!, and it’s all about a story told in words and music about a little boy’s wish for snow in our desert city.
The storyteller, positioned just below centre stage, is the elaborately costumed Jim Smales, who does a smashing job at stringing together all the songs into a coherent tale. The boy Alex, played by chorus singer Logan Bradford, “saw a star suspended like a perfect snowflake in the heavens.” He wished upon the star for snow because he wanted to make friends and enjoy the snow like where he was living before: Toronto. His wish came true but as Tucson became snowed in, not everyone was happy!
A rocking rendition of White Christmas featured two singers, one with a high-pitched voice reminiscent of guy groups from the 50s. The exuberant mood of this song contrasted with the following number, Copo de Nieve, a lovely Spanish folk song featuring fine solos.
The interplay of upbeat tunes with a restrained selection continued with a rocking version of Let it Snow juxtaposed with Stopping by Woods on a Snow Evening, a contemplative tune I had not heard before. With lyrics by Robert Frost, it featured simple but evocative notes on the piano between verses. Delightful.
Another traditional folk song, this one from Israel, followed a beautiful rendition of White Winter Hymnal, performed by the 9-man group Reverb, drawn from the gay men’s chorus as a whole. They were also featured in the second half of the show with the popular Paul Simon tune Hazy Shade of Winter.
Act one ended with Channukah in Santa Monica, a novelty tune that had everyone laughing in an audience that included people from 8 to 80. The snow got serious in the second Act, exemplified in the song Snowstorm Tango, whose Latin beat was infectious. Two singers enacted the tango, as shown in the photo.
As the snow fell, most people in Tucson snuggled inside their cosy homes, but Alex did find one playmate so his wish was partially filled. As the storyteller related, “Here the snow is even more special” than it is in Toronto, where it happens every year. With snow in Tucson, “we get a vision of an impossible world that can’t last: a paradoxical vision of beauty and peace.”
The tale ended well as the Sun came out, with the song Arizona Christmastime, featuring silly pop-up figures held by various chorus members and a state flag waving in the background. Very kitsch and very marvellous. The concert ended with an encore, a sexy performance with some chorus members dancing shirtless.
Overall a brilliant concept with excellent choreography, done with gusto and cheer. Certainly the best holiday concert in Tucson this year.
There is one more chance to catch the performance, Dec. 8 at 2pm, at the Leo Rich Theatre in downtown Tucson. Snowed in! is directed by Jared Brayton Bollenbacher, and the pianist is Dr Kyungsun Choi.
Visit their website for more on the chorus: www.reveillemenschorus.org
Photos by C Cunningham