Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

SPRING ARTS 2018 CLASSICAL: A new spin on Durufle’s ‘Requiem’

Gay Men’s Chorus director revoices famous work



classical music, gay news, Washington Blade

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington has a busy spring. Although the chorus has always interspersed classical selections in with its contemporary, more LGBT-themed material, it has done more classical major works in recent years. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Classical music is funny when it comes to LGBT stuff — on one hand, it’s no big deal. Nobody cares if the talent is there. Yet sometimes it’s taken to such an absurd degree that it feels disingenuous. Or the artists sometimes feel talking about their personal lives will cheapen their art or dilute its impact in an arena where it’s not supposed to matter.

All that to say — comb through the classical spring concerts coming up and there’s very few LGBT themes or personnel to point to. And yet many folks active in that world say our regional orchestras, opera companies and choirs are just as healthily outfitted with gays as the rest of the city. Maybe not quite as high in number as, say, the uber-queer D.C. theater community, but not off by much. It’s anecdotal so yeah, take it with a grain of salt, but that’s what you go by when there are no hard numbers available.

The gayest classical concert this season by far comes from an unlikely source — our Gay Men’s Chorus. While their musical chops have never been questioned — they’re enjoying a rich new era under the direction of Artistic Director Thea Kano — the fact that they do so much Broadway, camp, music-with-a-message, pop covers, you name it really, folks who love the classical canon around here tend to gravitate to local choirs (and there are many) that stick to the traditional repertoire.

It’s even a “thing” in the chorus. Kano, with a chuckle, refers to the “SMQs” (i.e. “serious music queens”) in the massive choir. Those SMQs, she says, were giddy with delight when she told them one of their 2018 concerts was a new tenor/bass arrangement of Maurice Durufle’s “Requiem.” The Chorus performs it this weekend (Saturday, March 3) at 8 p.m. at the Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St., N.W.). Tickets are $60. Full details at

Kano, as big an ally as it gets, was in her third year of graduate school at UCLA in 2003 working on an advanced conducting degree when she first became aware of the famous “Requiem,” or “Mass for the dead.” She and her mentoring professor were considering ideas for what she might do her dissertation on and he suggested the “Requiem.”

“He said the Durufle ‘Requiem’ and I was like, ‘The who, the what?,’” Kano says. “He said, ’Shame on you,’ and sent me home with a bunch of CDs. I put the first one in and was just moved to tears. There’s something just glorious about it.”

It did become her dissertation piece and longtime chorus accompanist Teddy Guerrant suggested she adapt it for tenor-and-bass chorus.

“He actually kept bugging me about it over the years,” Kano says.

She had contacts with the Durufle Association (the composer, who was straight, died in 1986; the “Requiem” premiered in 1947) and went to Paris last summer to do the work of actually transcribing the nine-movement, about 40-minute piece, a process she says was, yes, tedious at times, but a process akin to working on a crossword puzzle that she came to love.

Composed for soprano-alto-tenor-bass (SATB) chorus with occasional divisi, Kano adapted it for tenor 1, tenor 2, baritone and bass (TTBB) a process that in many cases was as simple as taking the soprano and alto parts down an octave, although that wasn’t feasible in all places. It’s in the same key as the original; the same orchestral and organ accompaniments Durufle wrote are being used. Soprano Breanna Sinclaire (a trans Baltimore native who’s making a name for herself as an opera soloist) will perform the fifth movement, “Pie Jesu.”

“There are some passages where the sopranos (in the original) have the melody and they’re up in the rafters but now it’s been assigned to the baritones and it’s … kind of more smushed in there so we had to really bring the other sections’ volumes down and bring the other up to make sure it’s voiced so that what is prominent stands out to the ear of the audience,” Kano says. “The first few times I heard it live in the TTBB, I was like, ‘Wow, this sounds like Durufle but different.’ We’ve been working on it about seven or eight weeks and I think it’s just glorious. The audience is in for a real treat.”

Kano was delighted that about 140 of the chorus’s 300 (give or take) members signed on for the concert (they’re not required to). She was concerned some members who enjoy the more camp/pop stuff might not be up for such a major work from the classical canon, although the chorus has in previous years done adaptations of major works such as the Faure “Requiem” and “Carmina Burana.”

Because the “Requiem” was written in a style based on Gregorian plainchant (traditionally sung by male singers), the TTBB version required no great musicological backflips. And Kano says the majesty of the piece transcends its Christian text. If it seems an odd choice for the chorus, which specializes in more rah-rah-gay-type contemporary repertoire (although they’ve always done classical works as well), Kano says it’s its own statement of equality.

“Just the fact that we’re out as an LGBT chorus standing there and singing anything, you know, the stereotype of what the classical snobby choruses can do, just shows that we can raise our voices any way we feel is appropriate for our abilities. It puts us on the map that yes, we can sing anything and hopefully the audience will agree.”

Chorus member Tim Gillham, a tenor who joined the group in 2014, had previously sung the “Requiem” in the traditional voicing and said it’s been “truly a joy” to rediscover it in Kano’s version.

“Thea’s treatment brings an added depth and warmth to the work, which is especially appropriate for a ‘Requiem,’” he says.

“It’s been a total treat to have Thea work us through the music sections and share and feel her true passion for the music,” says Ed Oseroff, a bass who’s been with the Chorus since 2000. “I hope the audience will sit back, relax and let the emotion and power of the music take them away.”

As usual, it’s a busy spring for the Chorus. Its “Make America Gay Again” concert is Saturday, March 17; small ensembles’ “Extravaganza” is Saturday, April 14 at the Barns at Wolf Trap and “Transamerica,” a show about trans issues that will also feature Sinclaire, is June 2-3. Full details at



PHOTOS: DCGFFL 25th Anniversary Party

Gay flag football league marks milestone at Penn Social



The D.C. Gay Flag Football league held a party celebrating their 25th season at Penn Social on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) held a 25th season anniversary party at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. Proceeds from the event benefited the LGBTQ youth services organization SMYAL as well as the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Continue Reading


New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more



(Book cover image courtesy of Hachette Books)

‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
$29/320 pages

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.” 

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women  still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort.  There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches. 

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.

“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”

“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.

Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.

“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”

Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.

You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

Continue Reading


Rupert Murdoch’s powers on full display in ‘Ink’

Media baron helped pave the way for Brexit, Prime Minister Thatcher



Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb) and Andrew Rein (Rupert Murdoch) in ‘Ink’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s loathsome traits are many, but his skills to succeed are undeniably numerous. 

In the first scenes of John Graham’s West End and Broadway hit drama “Ink,” an exciting year-long detail from the life of a burgeoning media baron, Murdoch’s powers of persuasion are on full display.

It’s 1969 London. Over dinner with editor Larry Lamb, a young Murdoch shares his plan to buy the Sun and rebrand the dying broadsheet, replacing the Daily Mirror as Britain’s best-selling tabloid. What’s more, he wants to do it in just one year with Lamb at the helm. 

Initially reluctant, Lamb becomes seduced by the idea of running a paper, something that’s always eluded him throughout his career, and something Murdoch, the outsider Australian, understands. Murdoch taunts him, “Not you. Not Larry Lamb, the Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, not the guy who didn’t get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, who didn’t get a degree from anywhere. Not you.”

Still, Lamb, played convincingly by Cody Nickell in Round House Theatre’s stellar season-opener, a co-production with Olney Theatre Center, remains unsure. But Murdoch (a delightfully brash Andrew Rein) is undeterred, and seals the deal with a generous salary. 

Superbly staged by director Jason Loweth, “Ink” is riveting. Its exchanges between Lamb and Murdoch are a strikingly intimate glimpse into ambition involving an ostensibly average editor and a striving money man who doesn’t like people.  

Once on board, Lamb is trolling Fleet Street in search of his launch team, played marvelously by some mostly familiar actors. He makes his most important hire — news editor Brian McConnell (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) — in a steam bath. The remainder of the Sun’s new masthead falls handily into place: Joyce Hopkirk (Kate Eastwood Norris) the women’s page editor whose forward thinking is marred by her casual racism; Zion Jang plays Beverley Goodway, an awkwardly amusing young photographer; persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Michael Glenn) who learns to love ugly things; and an old school sports editor who proves surprisingly versatile, played by Ryan Rillette, Round House’s artistic director. 

At Lamb’s suggestion, the team brainstorms about what interests Sun readers. They decide on celebrities, pets, sports, free stuff, and —rather revolutionarily for the time —TV.  Murdoch is happy to let readers’ taste dictate content and the “Why” of the sacred “five Ws” of journalism is out the window. 

Murdoch is portrayed as a not wholly unlikable misanthrope. He dislikes his editors and pressman alike. He particularly hates unions. His advice to Lamb is not to get too chummy with his subordinates. Regarding the competition, Murdoch doesn’t just want to outperform them, he wants to grind them to dust. 

Loewith leads an inspired design team. Scenic designer Tony Cisek’s imposing, inky grey edifice made from modular walls is ideally suited for Mike Tutaj’s projections of headlines, printed pages, and Rein’s outsized face as Murdoch. Sound designer and composer Matthew M. Nielson ably supplies bar noises and the nonstop, pre-digital newspaper clatter of presses, linotypes, and typewriters.

From a convenient second tiered balcony, the Daily Mirror’s establishment power trio Hugh Cudlipp (Craig Wallace), Chris Lee Howard (Chris Geneback) and Sir Percy (Walter Riddle) overlook all that lies below, discussing new tactics and (mostly failed) strategies to remain on top.   

Increasingly comfortable in the role of ruthless, sleazy editor, Lamb is unstoppable.

Obsessed with overtaking the Daily Mirror’s circulation, he opts for some sketchy reportage surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Sir Alick (Todd Scofield). The kidnappers mistook Muriel for Murdoch’s then-wife Anna (Sophia Early). Next, in a move beyond the pale, Lamb introduces “Page 3,” a feature spotlighting a topless female model. Awesta Zarif plays Stephanie, a smart young model. She asks Lamb if he would run a semi-nude pic of his similarly aged daughter? His reaction is uncomfortable but undaunted. 

For Murdoch’s purposes, history proves he chose well in Lamb. By year’s end, the Sun is Britain’s most widely read tabloid. Together they give the people what they didn’t know they wanted, proving the pro-Labour Daily Mirror’s hold on the working class is baseless and paving the way for things like Brexit and a Prime Minister Thatcher. 

“Ink” at Round House closes soon. See it if you can.

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade