In a normal year, fellow audience members would’ve given me the stink eye for coming in 20 minutes late. This year, logging in late, I bothered no one. With a sly wink and a nod to Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus delivered its customary blend of spicy and sweet. Running just under 45 minutes, this year’s free virtual holiday concert, “Hung with Care,” encourages crunchy snacks, comfy slippers, and singing along loudly.
COVID times prevented members from physically singing together. Instead, they taped themselves and submitted their recordings. Artistic Director Steve Milloy and his stellar production crew mixed and edited these individual recordings to create a polished musical sound. Twinkling confectionary swirls of animation, special effects, and cutaways bring a little magic for the eyes. A sign language interpreter was present for all but one number, where they used subtitles.
The first number happened to be one of my favorites, “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Darned good thing this concert was virtual; no one could see me prancing like a tiny reindeer. And, oh my gosh. Some adorable dogs make an appearance.
What a wonderful treat the rest of the program was. The range of musical genres will keep those visions of sugar-plums dancing in your head. The Queen’s Men take us on a jazzy trip with “A Very Cool Yule,” and 11 men wearing green definitely amuse with that classic for children of all ages, “Mr. Grinch.” The foot-tapping rendition of the bluesy “North Pole Man” will make you smile with the touch of innuendo. Eric Knechtges’ one-man parody, the “12 Days of Quarantine,” elevates the talents of the production crew with imaginative and hilariously takes on each day. Just wait for Day 5! A swinging version of “Daddy Kissing Santa Claus” had me singing along — only this time, I didn’t have all the words. “This Holiday” brings sweet and touching wishes that are so essential in these topsy turvy times. Concluding the concert was the exuberant bilingual interpretation of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas/ Te Deseo Feliz Navidad.”
Special guest appearances interspersed throughout provide little pops of extra surprise: Cincinnati Boy Choir Artistic Director, Jason Alexander Holmes; Penny Tration; and Molly Morman.
This year, being the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus 30th Anniversary year (their XXX year, as they call it), has been a year of adjusting to COVID disappointments and obstacles. One thing is certain: CMC has found new and wonderful ways to delight their audience. You’ll find plenty of fun and eXcitement in this eXtraordinary, eXpressive virtual holiday presentation.
Nice job, gents. And the naughty thing about this concert? You can watch it again. And again. And again. Getting ready to hit replay now… Have a yule that’s cool, y’all!
Kari E. McLean is a returning wanderer getting reacquainted with the area and its exemplary arts programming. A theater aficionado, a coffee addict and a Fiona fan, she keeps turning up in spots all over the Tri-State like a good penny.