There's no merrier way to get into the Christmas spirit than by catching annual holiday concerts by the New Mexico Gay Men's Chorus and its sister chorus, the New Mexico Women's Chorus. Every year the groups put on accomplished, eclectic shows to ring in the season. This year, I'm happy to say, will be no different.
The Gay Men's Chorus, now in its 23rd year, has changed a lot over the years according to Alan Stringer, who's been a member throughout its entire history. "We've had as few as eight singers and as many as 40," says Stringer. "And we've had many different directors, who have changed the group's focus considerably."
Under the direction of Paul Barrientos, Stringer believes the group is currently working at a very high level. Barrientos has been involved with Opera Southwest and has performed in some Santa Fe Opera productions as well. "He's the best singing teacher we've ever had," Stringer says.
On Saturday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m., at Saint Michaels and All Angels Episcopal Church, the group will present a concert featuring Conrad Susa's "Carols and Lullabies: Christmas in the Southwest," "Ave Maria" and a goofy version of Händel's Hallelujah Chorus, "The Jalapeño Chorus."
Stringer is also the current conductor of the Women's Chorus, which is currently in its 10th year. For years, women expressed interest in taking part in the Gay Men's Chorus and for a while many of them actually sang in the group. "When women sing tenor parts, though," says Stringer, "they have warm voices. Men in that same range have bright voices. It became difficult to find music appropriate for both vocal types."
Since there were enough women to have a strong independent chorus, the ladies eventually broke out on their own. They now have a very accomplished group consisting of 24 members.
The Women's Chorus will perform its holiday show, Winter Peace, at the First Unitarian Church on Saturday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. Oddly enough, the culturally diverse program will feature songs about winter and peace. These include Hanukkah songs, anti-war songs, pagan songs, Kwanzaa songs, African songs as well as New Mexican and English Christmas carols.
The two groups will come together on Friday, Dec. 12, at 8 p.m. at the Unitarian-
A lot of people believe these are two of the best vocal groups in the state. As we draw closer to the holidays, shake off your autumnal blues and dive into the spirit of the season by attending one, two or all three of these shows.