Some of the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus’ most talented performers will take to the stage of the Cabaret at the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis for their second annual “A Night at the Cabaret with the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus,” Thursday, May 30 and Friday, May 31 at 8 p.m.
Led by IMC Artistic Director Greg Sanders, the singers will perform a program consisting of selections from contemporary musical theater, the Great American Songbook and more. Accompanying them on piano is DJ Smith.
Recently, usedview.com met up with David Barnhouse, Adam Nagy, John Phillips and Jonathan Rossing, who are performing at the event, for a brief conversation about the cabaret show and the IMC in general.
When he’s not singing in the chorus, Barnhouse works in retail. Nagy, who just graduated from I.U. Medical School, is moving soon to Nashville, Tenn., to undergo his residency. Phillips is an elementary school teacher, and Rossing is a professor in the Communications Studies Department at IUPUI.
What does this experience mean to you?
DB I just really enjoy being part of the cabaret show because it is totally different from the rest of our season of choral concerts. With the cabaret we have the opportunity to sing solo work and sing with some of our best friends in duets and small groups. It’s nice because in the cabaret setting you get to see the audience and the people you are singing to. It’s very intimate. They get a chance to see a different part of you and your personality.
AN I enjoy it as well. I think it is one of the more unique shows that the Men’s Chorus does each year, and musical theater is probably one of my favorite genres to sing, so I enjoy that aspect as well. I think it is very fun as a performer.
JP I agree. I like the intimacy of the cabaret setting because you are so close to the audience and you can interact with them and see the reactions on their faces — something you can’t necessarily get in a bigger venue. It’s fun because you get to do a different style of repertoire, and we try to pick songs that really fit your specialty … whether it’s a comedic song or a ballad. You can really play to your strengths.
JR I am going to take your question in a different direction because I am new to the chorus. This is my first year with the chorus, and I’ve never done the cabaret before, so I don’t know entirely what to expect. I am looking forward to what everybody has mentioned, but you asked what this experience means. For me it’s a wonderful community. It’s a wonderful outlet for me as someone who has always been involved in some sort of musical performance throughout many stages of my life, even though it is not my profession or training by any means. This is a really important and valuable outlet for creative expression beyond my daily life, and on top of that I get to perform with great friends. It’s a great community, and I really value that part of the IMC.
DB It’s neat because … growing up you feel different and you feel like you just want to be part of a group and be yourself. So when we get together Wednesday nights, it’s not even about being gay; it’s about the great music that we make. We come together and all are working toward a common goal and are trying to make a statement through making beautiful music, and not necessarily through being political. For me, it is important that we make really high quality music, and I think, with Greg as our director, we are moving in that direction.
AN I agree. I think I come from this at another unique perspective, being straight and being in this group. I say that to prove a point. It’s not about being gay; it’s about making great music. I think this is an awesome place to be if you like performing, but also to show your support for your friends and for that community in general.
David said something before about not being very political. I agree with that to a point. However, I think that in some ways we are actually very political without being overt about it. I think it is immensely political for this group to have allies who are straight, all coming together to make music in a state where there is some trepidation about moving forward with gay rights. I think that having that gay/straight alliance at an adult professional musical level is a very important political statement to make without beating people over the head with it. It’s a really transformative sort of thing.
What kind of feedback are you getting from the community?
DB It has just been overwhelmingly positive. I think people are enjoying the concerts, and it’s not just because they are friends. They are starting to see that we put some time and quality work into the product we are making. It’s been awesome. The seats are full at the concerts, and we have really tried to push to be at a higher level of performance. We are still a community ensemble, but I think that Greg wants us to be perceived as a professional group in Indianapolis.
JG I have definitely experienced people talking about the higher quality of the group and the higher performance value and the difficulty level at which the group has been performing, particularly in relation to where it was. I don’t know too much about IMC’s history, but I do know when I first moved to Indianapolis and attended a concert I was not inspired to join right away. But then, seeing the group performing again during the last few years brought me in the door. Clearly the group is on an upward trajectory in terms of talent and quality and value. It’s great to see.
JP I agree because I saw the last show before Greg had taken over and it was a really small chorus. Greg has just worked so hard to build not only the numbers physically, but also the quality of the product we put out, and people are really responding.
DB It’s not just the Greg Sanders show, however. We all put hours into the organization, but I think for every hour we put in, Greg is putting in twice that much, and I think he does a thankless job. I can’t thank him enough for reaching out to people like all of us who can contribute in our own way to the chorus and also for reaching out to the community to join our leadership board. With his vision, we’re going to be unstoppable as he continues to bring new ideas to the table.
AN Greg is a phenomenal musician and a phenomenal director, but his biggest strength is the capacity he has to bring people together. And once he has people together, he maintains an uncompromised vision of what he wants not only for the performance, but also for the group in general over a long period of time. I admire the way he goes about getting that out of people and not accepting anything less than what he knows that people can accomplish.
JP And he values our opinion and asks for our input, and he really takes what we have to say to heart, whether it’s literature or style. He’s asked for my suggestions and he’s used some of them, and others he hasn’t, but he’s always open and wants to know what we have to say.
Does singing in chorus fulfill your creative needs and desires?
DB Yes, it gives us different kinds of opportunities. It’s not just about rehearsing and reading music and trying to put on a great show, but also like giving to our community and participating in the AIDS walk and the Penrod Arts Festival and singing at the Pride Festival. That’s all been traditionally important to the Men’s Chorus, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
AN Everything that David said. For anyone who performs or sings … part of that creative outlet is just spending time with other people who enjoy doing the same thing. I think being part of a group like this allows you to bond with other people who value the same things and who enjoy spending free time learning and performing excellent music. I think that human connection within doing something creative makes that incredibly special in addition to the musical outlet.
JP I love being exposed to the different genres because I have been so musical theater heavy. I haven’t done any classical literature since college, so it’s really nice to be doing some of the really great classical works that we do.
JR I would echo all of that. The range of music and exposure … the social outlet … the creative outlet for me is really important. Coming together and working hard to produce a beautiful product with people I enjoy is wonderful for me.
What can audiences expect from their evening with you all at the Cabaret?
AN I think they can expect a little bit of everything. They can expect to laugh. They can expect to smile … maybe even shed a tear. There’s going to be something for everybody at an incredibly diverse program.
For tickets and information, visit www.indychoruses.com. Also, find the IMC on Facebook and Twitter.
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