From Heartland Men’s Chorus, a Glorious, Globe-Sweeping Ride

Capture the high, people! Capture the high! I just had to leave the calamitous din of the Bistro 303 to come rushing home and set my thoughts down to inform you about the sensational spring concert sung by the Heartland Men’s Chorus this evening at the Folly Theater, Kansas City, Mo. What I’m trying to do is to capture the high I felt from beginning to end of the illustrious performance of God-knows how-many-men assembled to join in song to a packed house for the opening night of what is cleverly called Global Destination: A Non-Stop Flight. You just had to be there to appreciate the title.
As artistic director, Joseph P. Nadeau explains in the program notes (and I will quote) “Global Destinations focuses on the beautiful sound of the Heartland Men’s Chorus, showcasing the amazing diversity of men’s choral music around the world. Our journey begins in Australia and quickly sweeps across the globe, touching down in many exotic locations, including Russia, Ireland, Indonesia, Spain and Israel.”
There is more good news to come, and you’ll find it in here somewhere. Here’s a clue . . . it has to do with an upcoming event being performed at the Folly Theater on June 9 and 10. Don’t ask questions, just book your tickets now or you’ll be the only ones at home that weekend, OK? So, back to the program.
In total, 12 countries having little in common but music were visited. Songs were performed in their native languages, which is sort of relaxing to the ear because you know you don’t know the words and aren’t about to hum along, so you’re forced to sit back and enjoy the sounds, the rhythms, the cadence, the sheer perfection of the human voice. Pause for breath. I just love the sound of a man’s voice. Make that all men’s voices. In particular, the ones that form the HMC. They give me goose bumps in unexpected places. But, enough about me … let’s talk about them!
How can I describe the opening number, which lingers in my mind long past the finale? Again I quote, “Past Life Memories” by Australian composer Sarah Hopkins combines ancient and modern singing techniques.” It was hauntingly beautiful and primal in execution, partially based on Aboriginal chant combined with the unusual technique of overtone singing wherein “much of the chorus sustains a drone, while a few singers improvise using only the shape of their mouths,” creating an effect of cascading whistle-like sounds. But no one is whistling -- we hear vowel sounds created by the singers. It’s indescribable, beginning as subdued and rising in power to that of the first dawn of creation. I truly hope they have captured this phenomenal experience on one of their CDs. I’d love to witness either dawn or sunset with someone special while listening to that.
The two works especially commissioned for this event were thoroughly engaging. “Amen” by Dan Forrest was subdued, ecclesiastical and reminiscent of my days being raised in the Roman Catholic faith (which is most likely where I got my sense of drama and love of theater). The music is hypnotic.
Doug Helvering’s “Sobane Iculo” was equally fascinating with a more powerful delivery, as one might expect from a work based upon African Zulu tribal chants. It comprised a medley of African songs from Zulu to Zimbabwe and roused the audience to a standing ovation.
I wish I had space to laud every single person connected with our Heartland Men’s Chorus, unmistakably among the best in the nation. Lest I forget, I want to pay special tribute to sign-language interpreter Rick McAdams, whose fluid motions and expressive, beautiful face bring special appreciation and kinship to both the hearing and hearing-impaired.
The Heartland Men’s Chorus is one of Kansas City’s best venues of music appreciation for the younger set as well. Don’t hesitate to take the kids. Seated directly to my right was a young man who was intently engaged in the performance. I observed him scanning the program notes and sitting on the edge of his seat in a display of utter concentration. Upon returning from intermission, I couldn’t help but “chat him up,” as the English say. I learned that his name was Stephen, that he was 11 years old and that he was there with Scott, his father. Bravo, Scott, for making sure Stephen becomes a well-rounded individual.
I almost forgot … the happening on June 9 and 10 is titled The Pink Carpet: Gays, Lesbians and Hollywood. As if that’s not enough, fans of Will and Grace (and who isn’t?) will get to see Karen’s nemesis, that Emmy-winning, short-in-stature-but-huge-on-insult comic Leslie Jordan narrating the program.
Finally, thanks to all the opening night patrons who arrived bejeweled and bedazzling. I saw so many diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and pearls, set in gold and platinum, it reminded me of Tiffany’s window at Christmas … and that was just the male portion of the audience. Who says Kansas City is a cow town?

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