It’s been a rough year for many, as the extended political season often served more to divide than unite us.
Locally, the Harrisburg Gay Men’s Chorus offers the perfect antidote, as people try to mend wounds, come together and even have some much-needed fun during the holiday season. “Merry Kitsch-mas,” the chorus’ annual holiday show, allows audiences throughout central PA to inhale a breath of fresh air and exhale a few laughs.
“It’s all the bad Christmas songs that you are too ashamed to admit you like,” said Artistic Director Adam Gustafson, who worked on a number of ideas for the show before “a cheese-ball Christmas” came to mind.
The theme is more than something that informs the choice of songs—it binds them together in a narrative that runs throughout the show. The storyline of “Merry Kitsch-mas” is, according to Gustafson, “a young millennial coming out to his father” under the guidance of the “Three Wise Queens.”
The experience of millennials is not remote to the HGMC. The 20-odd members in the chorus range in age from late 20s to 70s. And some of the older members have belonged nearly as long as the chorus, which was founded in the late 1980s.
“There is work,” says Doug Wentz, a 55-year-old member who joined shortly after Gustafson started three years ago. “There’s a lot of misperception that, when you join a chorus, it’s going to be easy. I think it’s a little more than what some people bargain for. But some are up for the challenge, and they seem to enjoy it.”
Since joining the chorus, Wentz has had a blast.
“It’s more of a social outlet for me, because I work from home,” he said. “It’s a bunch of great guys, and we have fun.”
Fun is exactly what is in store for “Merry Kitsch-mas.”
“We’re going to do everything from ‘Not My Father’s Son’ from ‘Kinky Boots’ to a little song called ‘Magic Snow,’ which explains why Santa Claus is able to fly around the entire world in 24 hours. You can imagine what that’s about,” said Gustafson.
The story has a tonal variety that makes its cheerier selections pop.
“Our repertoire really does run the gamut this time around,” he said. “We’re doing ‘Prayer of the Children,’ which is a really gorgeous piece about peace and acceptance and these kinds of issues.”
Gustafson arranged many of the pieces, including a Ben Folds song that will be featured in “Merry Kitsch-mas.”
“He really does focus on the harmony side of things,” said Wentz. “So, when possible, there is a lot of a cappella [in this show]. And he works us, so in the end, it’s very much worth it.”
The chorus recently put on a show at the Heidelberg United Church of Christ in York, where they previewed some of the numbers.
“We had a couple of members of the congregation come up to us afterwards who said they had tears in their eyes,” said Wentz. “That’s how you know you touched somebody with the music. That’s what it’s all about.”
The Heidelberg United Church of Christ is one of the churches that will host “Merry Kitsch-mas.” The other churches are the First Reformed United Church of Christ in Lancaster, the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg and Unity Church of Harrisburg in Enola, which is the chorus’ “home” church.
“This is a show that’s going to really engage with cheese hardcore, but it’s also going to go to a very serious spot,” Gustafson said. “But it’ll all come out on the other side OK, I hope.”
For more information about the Harrisburg Gay Men’s Chorus and its “Merry Kitsch-mas” concerts, visit www.harrisburgmenschorus.org.
Ring In the Kitsch
The Harrisburg Gay Men’s Chorus plans four “Merry Kitsch-mas” concerts throughout central PA:
- Dec. 3: First Reformed United Church of Christ, 40 E. Orange St., Lancaster, 7 p.m.
- Dec. 4: Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, 1280 Clover Lane, Harrisburg, 4 p.m. (special appearance by Baltimore Men’s Chorus)
- Dec. 9: Heidelberg United Church of Christ, 47 W. Philadelphia St., York, 7:30 p.m.
- Dec. 11: Unity Church of Harrisburg, 927 Wertzville Rd., Enola, 4 p.m.
Author: Kari Larsen