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Music Review

Gay Men's Chorus Accentuates the Positive in 'EOS' Premiere

March 26, 2001|RICHARD S. GINELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Now in his final year as artistic director of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, Jon Bailey has built a quite satisfying choral instrument--a glossy, unified, responsive, ultimately gentle blend of voices. And at times he has steered this sound toward rather daring ends, commissioning and performing works that openly embrace gay pride.

The centerpiece of the chorus' spring concert at the Alex Theatre in Glendale was a relentlessly affirmative, big-thinking, 35-minute choral symphony by composer David Conte and librettist Nicholas Giardini called "EOS." Unveiled in Boston a year ago and given its Los Angeles premiere Saturday night, "EOS" traces the evolution of a gay consciousness in a language of neo-Romantic, mid-20th century Americana, with a naively grandiose coda that Mendelssohn would have understood.

Almost all was sweetness and light; even the section that depicts hatred from gay-bashers was downcast in tone but never bitter. While the piece drew an ecstatic reaction from the audience, "EOS" struck me as curiously unmoving, a series of expansive, pretty musical gestures with little that really grabbed the ear and a text that was too specifically geared toward the gay community to be of much use in a more universal context.

*

The rest of the program, titled "Songs of Pride and Joy," was essentially a buildup toward "EOS" with shorter works that conveyed similar sentiments--most emphatically in the confessional "Shame" by Roger Bourland and John Hall. All were performed smoothly, with backings ranging from a single piano to small instrumental combinations, and Bailey's polished verbal commentary revealed an articulate charismatic personality.

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