Asheville Gay Men’s Chorus 2024 Review: Uprising

By Afton Wooten

On June 22, 2024, the Asheville Gay Men’s Chorus presented its Pride Month concert, “Uprising.”

The beautifully curated programming by Artistic Director Simone Bernhard featured a balanced mix of songs focusing on themes of protest, adversity, hope, and affirmation. Not only did Bernhard fashion an inspiring set of music, she led the chorus with a spirit of compassion and energy. Her attention to healthy singing and vocal unity was evident. Each member of the chorus displayed a calm and collected manner of singing. Their awareness to one another rendered unified breath work, clean articulations, and authenticity.

Act I: Protest

A performance of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin'” opened the show, setting the stage for the exploration of social justice and revolution. Following Dylan’s protest anthem, the performance of the rock song turned choral hit “All Good People,” by Delta Rae, opened the following act. Asheville Gay Men’s Chorus member Michael Sarris’s arrangement of this piece was nicely choreographed, both physically and vocally. The four solo voices of tenors Marc Eden and Jack Parsons, baritone Michael Storey and bass Michael Sarris entered one at a time each presenting powerful opening lines that built up to the roaring refrain, sung by the full chorus. The song’s refrain:

“Come on and raise your voice above the raging seas,
We can’t hold our breath forever, When our (brothers) sisters cannot breathe
All good people, won’t you come around?
Won’t you come around?
Defend your brothers”

echoed throughout the remainder of the concert, and I’m sure went home in the hearts and minds of the audience, as it did for me.

Act II: Adversity

After a rabble-rousing start, the chorus transitioned to solemnity for the second act. In the performance of Richard Burchard’s “Dedication,” attention to vocal technique bore fruit. Long phrases comprised of unified vowels, in tight harmony were executed with expert musicality and grace. Tenor Will Jones’s solo ascended the droning chorus and soared through the chapel with power and ease. He was soon joined by the Eden; together their lustrous tenors were reminiscent of Delibes’ “Flower Duet.” The final multi-part chord, matched with a sparkling high B-flat sung by Jones gave the piece a tranquil ending.

Performances of Kurt Bestor’s “Prayer of the Children,’ and Stephen Schwartz’s “Testimony,” inspired by the “It Gets Better Project,” were sung with a sacred veracity. The chorus presented these pieces in a robust and heartfelt manner.

Act III: Hope & Affirmation

The chorus’s final offerings blended traditional choir pieces like Quaker hymn, “How Can I Keep from Singing,” arranged by George Walker and Mark Hayes’s “I Am That Man,” with feel good pieces such as Broadway’s “Kinky Boots” and Sara Bareilles’s “Brave.”

Collaborative pianist Rob Blackwell displayed laudable versatility, spirit, and passion. Blackwell’s most remarkable feat was his admirable performance of Richard Wagner’s “Pilgrim’s Chorus,” from “Tannhäuser,” prior to a unique choir and piano version of English Rock band, Muse’s “Uprising.”

Power to the People

The audience rode the rollercoaster of emotion that is everyday life for the LGBTQIA+ community. We experienced anger, frustration, and desire with broken-heartedness and pain, as well as joy, freedom, and pride. This concert represented our ever-changing social and political environments, and what we can do with only our voices to make a change for the better.


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