There were moments during the 15th anniversary celebration of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles when ideal music for ideal performers met ideal audience. Enthusiasm runneth over and belief abounded.
The concert, at the Alex Theater in Glendale Saturday night, featured cherished short pieces from the group's past and a Southern California premiere of a new work co-commissioned by the chorus to commemorate the Stonewall riots of 25 years ago.
Roger Bourland's "Flashpoint/Stonewall," with text by John Hall, was the main event of the evening. Written in a mixture of pop styles, the six-movement 38-minute work is really a piece of musical theater, with costumes, choreography, solos, duets, choruses, even lighting effects and dramatic situations.
Strongest musically were the numbers using solo singers, the second movement "DreamDrag," a blend of Kurt Weill and the Association vamped stylishly by Craig Wheeler (in drag), and the fourth movement, "The Parade," a naive waltz in which a young man suddenly and touchingly discovers his place in society.
Elsewhere, Bourland's music relies heavily upon Leonard Bernstein and solidly enough, though the sheer amount of text to be got through makes it less musically interesting. The instrumental accompaniment of three synthesizers, drums and bass sounded rudimentary. Conductor Jon Bailey led an assured and robust performance that combined the Los Angeles chorus with the visiting Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, though the large forces (more than 200) could prove unwieldy at quicker tempos.
Before an enjoyable set by the Washington chorus, the local ensemble offered an exceptionally executed opening group, tight in ensemble, sensitive in phrasing and dynamics, clear in enunciation. Indeed, in its fraternal humor and earnest anthems, this seemed like glee club singing at its best.