Join the Chorus

A “Wicked” good concert

By Anthony Rodgers June 16, 2015

Closing its 29th season, Heartland Men’s Chorus paid tribute to the music of Stephen Schwartz with “A Little Bit Wicked,” a winning combination of music, camp, and an infectious love for what the group does.

Stephen Schwartz has found success writing music and lyrics for both stage and screen and remains a standard name in the theatre world today. Under the direction of Dustin S. Cates, Heartland Men’s Chorus had magic to do as the group paid tribute to Schwartz this weekend with a gravity-defying program filled with energy, laughter, and passion.

HMC is one of Kansas City’s most popular ensembles, and the Folly Theater was packed to hear the large, all-male chorus. The sheer sound created by the group is often full and sonorous, balancing strong lower voices with upper notes sitting nicely on top, and all with wonderful intonation. These moments were especially grand as the men sang “Glory” during a medley of numbers of Pippin and “No One Mourns the Wicked” from Wicked. At times, mumbled lyrics hindered the chorus from projecting this desired sound and instead made the songs difficult to understand and somewhat uncomfortable, notably in “Spark of Creation” from Children of Eden and “Just Around the River Bend” from Disney’s Pocahontas.

Unlike most choral groups, however, HMC does not shy away from the campiness that is group hand choreography. White gloves shone brightly under black light to give a mystical nod to the original staging of Pippin’s opening number, “Magic to Do,” and simple, repetitive motions enhanced the fairy-tale innocence of “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted.

The program predominately featured well-known numbers from Schwartz’s impressive and expansive oeuvre. HMC, however, decided to include a 2012 work that stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the evening’s selections. With lyrics taken from and inspired by the It Gets Better Project, “Testimony” was premiered by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus as a response to the bullying of LGBT youth. While the message of the work is important and emotions ran high from the stage through the theater, the piece felt completely out of place with the rest of the program’s pop theatrical focus. HMC does a great job handling works with such sensitive subjects, but the placement of this particular piece was too uncharacteristic to the evening as a whole.

A variety of soloists performed with the chorus, many of which came from the ranks of HMC, demonstrating the levels of talent that regularly sing with the group. With a gorgeous tone and clean approach to his numbers, Kansas City-native Brandon L. Pearson was a standout vocalist. He commanded the stage during “Forgiveness’ Embrace” from True Home, connecting with the audience to present the heartfelt lyrics and sing the beautiful melody, accompanied by the warm sounds of Spectrum, a small ensemble of HMC members. Pearson also did a fabulous job maintaining high levels of energy during “We Beseech Thee” in a medley of songs from Godspell. This medley also included an intimate and well-deserved feature of Rick McAdams, the evening’s sign language interpreter, during “Day By Day,” and a strong proclamation from “Prepare Ye” by Michael L. De Voe. De Voe also put on quite the act during Enchanted’s “Happy Little Working Song” as a braided cleaning bear with Spectrum serving as his chamber maid choir! Ultimately, a swishy trio stole the show, as Wilson L. Allen, Bob Kohler, and Brandon Shelton pulled out all the pink stops—and tiaras and feather boas—for a delightful and hilarious rendition of “Popular” from Wicked.

Sopranist Sara Sommerer took an incredible about-face for the better with her performances between acts. Singing “When You Believe” from Prince of Egypt, Sommerer overshadowed her duet partner, Steven Jeffrey Karlin, and his smooth, dark sound with forced screamings of extraneous notes. In a pleasant turn of events, her Wicked duets with Julie O’Rourke Kaul were entirely on point. Sommerer and O’Rourke Kaul blended beautifully with one another as the singing witches and even incorporated well-considered staging in the style of standard productions.

Some of the numbers included guest dancers to add an additional visual element. While demonstrating elegant motion, a lack of precision and uniformity was a strong hindrance to the overall desired effects. The dancers also gave the impression that they did not know the choreography well enough on their own and instead relied on each other for the next position. And though it is standard for Elphaba to take flight on stage during “Defying Gravity,” the hoisting of a young dancer into the air was uncomfortable to watch during the evening’s closing song.

Heartland Men’s Chorus holds a high standard of musical and camp excellence, and this weekend’s presentation of Stephen Schwartz classics was a charming concert, paying tribute to one of musical theatre’s most prolific composers and the art of being “wicked.”

Heartland Men’s Chorus 

A Little Bit Wicked
June 13–14 (Reviewed Saturday, June 13, 2015)
Folly Theater
300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO

Copyright © 2015 Used by permission.

Heartland Men's Chorus

HMC’s hometown holiday

By Kristin Shafel Omiccioli December 10, 2014

The Heartland Men’s Chorus was bursting with hometown pride and holiday spirit in its latest show, “Kansas City Christmas,” presented at the Folly Theater last weekend.

In addition to featuring a hearty number of Kansas City artists and composers’ arrangements, the Heartland Men’s Chorus’s annual holiday extravaganza celebrated tradition and other cultures. Rich versions of classic Christmas gems “Gloria,” “Lo, How a Rose e’re Blooming,” and “I Saw Three Ships” set the tone with their expanding harmonies and wistfulness, as well as a dramatic version of “The Little Drummer Boy” which featured a tight five-person drumline. In addition to the Latin “Gloria,” the spirited African Kituba-dialect song “Noel” opened the show, with “Bashana Haba’ah” (“Next Year”) sung in Hebrew, which accompanied a touching on-stage scene of two fathers with their cute young daughters lighting a menorah. The men handled the non-English lyrics with excellent expression and diction, enunciating each phrase and syllable clearly in each piece.

Before intermission, the men sang local composer Jacob Narverud’s arrangement of three sections from Handel’s Messiah, a challenging feat with an appearance by sublime local soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson. The chorus admirably rose to the challenge of this arrangement, tackling the fugal and melismatic nature of “For Unto Us a Child is Born” especially well.

An HMC concert would not be complete without a good dose of levity, and this first concert of its 29th season was no exception. “Pirate Song,” lead by soloist Michael L. De Voe, had the choir playing for laughs with the tune’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“For romance, find a pirate”), and guest drag queen stars were riotous as the “Christmas Tree Angel” (Genewa Stanwyck) and Elsa for a medley from Frozen (De De DeVille). “Christmas in the Cloister” opened the second half: an impish take on lengthy church announcements in plainsong, with a delightfully hammy performance as Cantor by Mark A. Lechner. Tannehill Anderson even joined the merriment with her jazzy, exaggerated solo on “Variations on Jingle Bells,” arranged by local composer Mark Hayes.

HMC also included a few token heart-tugging numbers, including its “Ad Astra” selection for this concert, a wordless, mostly instrumental “Stille Nacht.” You couldn’t help also thinking of your own loved ones passed away during this one, with the stage dimmed a deep blue hue and countless sparkling stars projected throughout the hall. “Thanksgiving Song” featured some spoken word in the form of inspiring social-media posts on myriad topics, from being cancer free to a successful adoption to celebrating equal marriage, and soloist Jason Taylor gave an R&B-tinged performance of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” HMC welcomed local indie-pop recording artist Dustin Rapier to sing the lead part for Brad Millison’s “Christmas in Kansas City,” complete with mentions of the Plaza lights and our beloved fountains, arranged by HMC’s new artistic director, Dustin Cates.

As expected from HMC, production value for “Kansas City Christmas” was high-quality and created a warm, inviting scene and festive mood through lighting, props, color schemes, costumes, confetti, and more. Choreography by Jerry Jay Cranford was lively and always enhanced the songs, especially on the animated “Chanukah in Santa Monica.” This show had more assisting musicians than usual, with a flutist, string quartet, guitar-bass-drum trio, and HMC’s own piano accompanist Lamar Sims. While the accompaniment in general was strong and laid a good foundation for the chorus, the string quartet struggled with intonation and confidence on the Messiah.

Dustin Cates is a welcome addition to the HMC family. He is personable and charming on stage (if a bit stiff this first concert), clearly challenges the singers, and has a vision for continuing and expanding the organization’s messaging and musical programming. One thing is certain—you can always count on HMC to present its own special twist on the usual holiday fare, honoring traditions and in a fresh, fun way this time of year.


Heartland Men’s Chorus
Kansas City Christmas

December 5–7, 2014 (Reviewed Friday, December 5)
Folly Theater
300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO

Copyright © 2014 Used by permission.

We are all Harvey Milk

By Anthony Rodgers April 1, 2014

Collaborating with the Gateway Men’s Chorus from St. Louis, the Heartland Men’s Chorus presented an evening of encouraging song and a grandiose tribute to the work and message of Harvey Milk.

“We gotta give them hope.” These words of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to public office, were taken to heart by the Heartland Men’s Chorus, who joined with the Gateway Men’s Chorus from St. Louis this weekend at the Folly Theater. After each ensemble sang selections of their own, Andrew Lippa’s large work I Am Harvey Milk received its Midwest premiere, forcing an element of introspection on the part of everyone present and a call for action to end all remaining hate.

The Gateway Men’s Chorus started the concert with a performance of Candlelight, a work by their conductor, Al Fischer; due to some timid sounds from the lower voices, the work was a bit unstable. However the ensemble quickly regrouped for a thrilling choral version of “Simple Joys” from Pippin to demonstrate their exceptional musicality. Intoning the words of John Donne, No Man Is An Islandresembled the solemnity of a Germanic Requiem, and the chorus’s clean intervals sung at a soft dynamic were impressive. Borrowing again from musical theatre, GMC closed with “Light,” the final number from Next to Normal, unifying all of their works in a subtly inspirational set and what seemed to be their own tribute to the Harvey Milks of the world.

The Heartland Men’s Chorus began their segment with Dan Forrest’s The Music of Living, a subdued fanfare that showcased the sheer power of the men’s combined voices. I Met A Boy was a humorous and humbling juxtaposition of the years 1958, 1976, and 2010, highlighting societal changes in regard to homosexuality. A beautiful timbre was created at the beginning of Inscription of Hope, a piece remembering the Holocaust, by piano, string quartet, oboe, and a wordless choir. The rich, dark sound in the choir continued through the opening of Give ‘Em Hope, which gradually shifted to a lighter, gospel style, during which it was hard not to feel inspired to dance along.

I Am Harvey Milk was an ambitious project involving both choruses, three soloists, a chamber orchestra, and a great deal of projected imagery. Not a biographical work, the oratorio-like work instead examined various aspects of Milk’s life, asking the listener to examine his or her place in a changing world and find something relatable in the life and words of one iconic man. The voice of Milk haunted the hall before the large chorus began the movement “I Am The Bullet,” influenced by postminimalism, speaking to a silent population of opinion-less persons. Converting the Folly into a 1970s disco, “Friday Night in the Castro” was a lively number involving group choreography that was engaging overall, although risky at times when not everyone remembers to fully participate. As homosexual slurs were written on a screen like graffiti, the words echoed through the room with a modified version of the familiar rhyme “Sticks and Stones,” and as the terms shifted to include derogatory slang for racial groups, the global impact of hateful words grew realized and heavy. The projections were distracting at times, however, particularly during the beautiful “San Francisco.” Perhaps the most rousing of the numbers was the finale, “Tired of the Silence,” as Milk’s moving words rallied listeners to victory by being one’s self.

As Harvey Milk, Tom Lancaster was a perfect fit, bringing elements of his musical theatre background to this concert stage, truly embodying the icon himself. His voice during “You Are Here” was commanding, supple, and always under control. Portraying a young Milk, Cam Burns had a remarkable voice, full of the innocence and ambition desired from the character. Sylvia Stone, soprano, faltered often on sustained lines, going noticeably flat, but her stage presence was spot-on with each portrait, and the recitative sections in “Leap” were clean and easily understood.

Additional elements of the event included the well-balanced chamber ensemble that was never overbearing or overpowered. Sign language interpreter John T. Adams did more than offer his interpretive services, dancing along with the music happening behind him—an appreciated subtlety. The lighting effects were well done, always appropriate to the moods and lyrics of individual movements and pieces. All in all, these components worked together to convert an anticipated choral concert into the uplifting and inspirational event that it was, echoing the message of Harvey Milk that “hope will never be silent.”

Heartland Men’s Chorus, featuring special guests Gateway Men’s Chorus of St. Louis
I Am Harvey Milk
March 29–30 (Reviewed Saturday, March 29, 2014)
Folly Theater
300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO
For more information visit

Copyright © 2014 Used by permission.

Love’s boundaries in 1920s and 30s Berlin

By Anthony Rodgers March 27, 2013

Traveling back to 1920s Berlin, the Heartland Men’s Chorus performed it spring concert “Falling in Love Again” at the Folly Theater, featuring cabaret numbers from the pre-war era and the Midwest premiere of Jake Heggie’s emotionally-charged “For a Look or a Touch.”

Time travel is no easy task—perhaps even impossible!—but the Heartland Men’s Chorus went back to pre-WWII Berlin, performing various numbers from the period and Cabaret and taking the audience of the Folly Theater with them. The group also gave the regional premiere of For a Look or a Touch by Jake Heggie, featuring guests baritone Morgan Smith and actor Kip Niven for a journey through—and across—time.

Beginning with “Wilkommen” from Cabaret, the stage was set for a night of song and dance highlighting the musical styles of the 1920s and frivolity of all in the hopping jazz clubs in Berlin. Masterfully arranged by Eric Lane Barnes, numbers included the spectacular Yiddish tune “Bei Mir bist Du schoen,” Weill-Brecht collaborations such as “Bilbao Song” and “Mack the Knife,” and the Cole Porter hits “Love for Sale/What Is This Thing Called Love?” A group of dancers featured in various numbers throughout the act were highly entertaining if not the most trained in this art. Wilson L. Allen acted as emcee for the production, narrating the storyline and providing comedic commentary on the performers, all with an exceptional singing voice, gender-blurring appearance, and unobtrusive German accent. A chamber orchestra of cabaret-like instrumentation was light and well balanced within themselves and with the large chorus. Overall, the vocal ensemble was musically engaged and blended sweetly, particularly when the parts harmonically divided, although there were moments in which they felt reluctant to enter creating a slight distraction from the arrangement. The standout group of soloists from the night were featured as characters in “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” notable for their humorously large props. Sounding like a collegiate fight-song, the gay anthem “The Lavender Song” was full-voiced, rousing, and still inspiring. The whole act was a show from beginning to end, flowing smoothly and transporting the Folly audience to the raucous intimacy of the cabaret.

Although times were as fun as the show’s first act, a new German regime in the 1930s changed the attitude toward homosexuality, reinforcing it as criminal love, and so the second half of the evening’s performance took a similar turn to the serious. Jake Heggie’s one-act opera For a Look or a Touch sets the tale of two young, gay lovers that were separated by death but reunited on the stage by their own words. Stirred from his sleep, Gad Beck (Kip Niven) sees the ghost of his former lover, Manfred Lewin (Morgan Smith), and discusses the struggles they both faced in and out of the Nazi concentration camps. Taken from the journals of Manfred and an interview with Gad from the 2000 documentary Paragraph 175, the words of the men are combined into a dialogue that is as cathartic for the audience as it is for those on stage.

Niven was dynamic as Gad, delivering the spoken memories with conviction and even offering a few moments of comedic relief. Smith’s velvety voice was malleable, comfortable in both operatic and jazz settings, although some technical issues existed with almost constant feedback from his microphone, and together, their chemistry was organic in juxtaposing the torment of the concentration camps with the torture of surviving with pain and guilt. Similarly changing styles with ease, the chamber orchestra featured a group of talented soloists Stephen Plante danced beautifully during the recollection of “The Story of Joe” and violently demonstrated a conflict of obedience and rebellion within the character tormented by the camp guards. Although there were some moments of hesitancy, particularly with the group singled out to dance and flirt with Smith during “Golden Years,” the chorus provided a wonderful background both visually—many wearing the striped uniforms of the camp with the pink triangle of marked homosexuality—and musically, supporting the solo lines and blending well with an evocative energy.

Combining the eccentric with the somber, HMC still made the effort to not add extra commentary on a modern society with their presentation of the two contrasting adventures. And with such great charisma and uniqueness, it’s no wonder that the Folly Theater was full for their spring concert, which left us with the reminder to just have fun, because life really is a cabaret.

Heartland Men’s Chorus
Falling in Love Again
Saturday, March 23, 2013 (Reviewed)
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Folly Theater
300 W. 12 St., Kansas City, MO

Copyright © 2013 Used by permission.

Tears and triumph for “When I Knew”

By Karen Hauge March 27, 2012

The Heartland Men’s Chorus performed to sold-out crowds all weekend at the Folly Theater, and their musical documentary “When I Knew” brought the house down during an afternoon of heartwarming and moving musical storytelling.

Now in its 26th season, the Heartland Men’s Chorus presented their spring concert this weekend to packed audiences in the Folly Theater. “When I Knew,” was constructed in two parts: the first was a child-friendly presentation that HMC had performed for 650 elementary students just days earlier; after intermission the program took on a more serious tone and addressed the experience of coming out for members of the Chorus and their family and friends.

The group began with “Don’t Laugh At Me,” a ballad-like plea to end bullying from the perspective of any person who has ever been the butt of someone else’s joke. The group sang with a gently blended and balanced sound that was complimented by unobtrusive, tasteful playing from Robert Lamar Sims on piano, joined by bass guitar and drums. The second piece brought The HeartAches to the stage, a nonet of tightly woven voices that performed a touching rendition of “Not While I’m Around” from Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.

The rest of the first half was a program called “Oliver Button Is a Sissy,” based on the book by the same name by Tomie dePaola. Commissioned in 2000 by HMC and three other gay men’s choruses, this program was designed to teach kids about bullying and acceptance through the story of a little boy who is teased because he likes to sing and dance more than anything else in the world. The story was narrated by Chris Hernandez, reading from an oversized copy of the book from a comfy winged armchair on stage. The chorus functioned like the chorus in a Greek play, echoing sentiments in the story, providing commentary, acting as a host of other characters, and setting the mood to great effect. The best moment of their performance was certainly the crescendo of demonic taunting that wove “Oliver’s a sissy” together with “I see London, I see France,” creating a dizzying siren that reflected the nightmare of being terrorized by your peers. Oliver himself was played by Steven Jeffrey Karlin, whose exuberant singing and dancing was effective and engaging even on the small stage of the Folly. The singers were accompanied by a small orchestra for this piece, and by Rick McAdams, a sign language interpreter whose expressive and musical signing was a beautiful addition to the entire concert.

The second half of the program commenced with a more solemn mood, beginning with the hushed and prayerful “If You Only Knew” from Michael Shaieb’s cantata Through a Glass Darkly. Sensitive, lyrical oboe playing by Jason Paschall added another plaintive layer to the performance, which was already heart-wrenching as the chorus performed behind a screen upon which childhood pictures of the men in the Chorus were projected.

Dan Savage joined the Chorus on stage for the remainder of the concert, to wild and enthusiastic applause. Savage, the Seattle columnist whose “It Gets Better” Project achieved runaway internet fame in 2010 as a response to recent suicides of gay teenagers, joined the Chorus to narrate the second half of the concert, reading anecdotes contributed by chorus members about the experience of when they first knew they were different. The narration was accompanied by animation and pictures on the screen that descended before each song, and each song sung by the chorus was linked with a particular anecdote. My favorites from this collection of songs were “Sixteen,” a medley of songs that was fun and bouncy, and showed just how much the singers were enjoying themselves; their happiness was infectious! Josh Krueger and John Edmonds performed a duet on “Pushed Down the Stairs” which was some of the strongest, most passionate singing I heard from soloists all afternoon. The HeartAches took the stage once again, fully tuxedo-ed to perform “Affirmation,” a spunky song about standing up for yourself.

“When I Knew” was commissioned by HMC for this performance, and was a touching multi-media event, featuring voice recordings of choir members and their families explaining when they knew they were gay or when someone they loved was gay. The choir sang well, though they tripped ahead a little bit on the piece’s syncopated rhythms, and the interspersed voice-overs were sweet and moving.

The emotional tour-de-force of the afternoon was the penultimate piece on the program. “All this Joy,” sung once again from behind a screen, was dedicated to boys who committed suicide, whose pictures were projected slowly in front of the audience. The choir performed their absolute best of the evening, reaching a climax both musically and emotionally.  Tears and sniffles abounded for me, as I openly wept rather than taking notes, until a kind seat-neighbor took pity and gave me a tissue, with a look that clearly said, “I’m right there with you, but seriously, your makeup is just everywhere.” The total experience was hugely powerful, and many more people than just me were reaching for their tissues.

The concert ended with a joyful rendition of “Born This Way” that was fun and had the audience cheering, as the singers all stripped off their jackets to reveal T-shirts (à la Glee) with the identifiers they have learned to take pride in, from “Likes Guys” to “Likes Gals” to “Sissy.” The concert was an enormous success, and HMC should be proud of the lasting positive impact they continue to have on Kansas City.

Heartland Men’s Chorus
When I Knew
March 24 and 25, 2012 (Reviewed March 25)
Folly Theater
300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, MO

Copyright © 2012 Used by permission.

All you need is HMC

By Kristin Shafel Omiccioli June 20, 2012

On the weekend just before Sir Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday, Kansas City’s resident feel-good choir Heartland Men’s Chorus delivered another entertaining concert series to sold-out audiences, this time featuring beloved songs of the Beatles.

The Heartland Men’s Chorus opened “All You Need is Love,” its debut performance in the Kauffman Center’s Muriel Kauffman Theatre, with an elaborate photo montage projected on a full-stage-sized sheer screen, set to the haunting “Because.” The striking images appropriately corresponded to the lyrics and included iconic shots of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, finishing with the infamous 1964 clip from The Ed Sullivan Show. After the Sullivan intro, HMC quickly launched into the boisterous “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as the screen was raised.

The program juxtaposed sweet, sedate love ballads with hard rock hits from the band’s abundant catalogue, including medleys, soloists, and dancing. Artistic director Joseph Nadeau selected excellent arrangements fitting comfortably into the chorus’s range, with rich harmonies and well-constructed polyphony. The men effectively conveyed each song’s mood and clearly enunciated the lyrics while putting their own HMC spin on the music, although occasionally I thought their projection might have been stronger in Helzberg Hall than in Kauffman Theatre.

Dressed as the lads from Liverpool—complete with skinny ties, dark Edwardian suits, and mop tops—a faction of the chorus emerged to dance during the first medley of “Get Back,” “Revolution,” and “Back in the USSR.” Tracie Davis’s choreography added to the nostalgia with classic ‘60s moves like the jerk, pony, swim, and more. Choreography was peppered throughout the show between the dancers and a few simple moves for the chorus itself, notably on “In My Life,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “Yellow Submarine.”

The second half of the concert highlighted the Beatles’ more exploratory period of the late ‘60s. In a pleasantly creative and memorable moment, this half began with a photo of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover projected on the screen. After a caption of “45 years later…” faded away, the screen rose to reveal the chorus members costumed in extremely colorful and spot-on ’60s garb—afros, paisley shirts, leather fringe, bellbottoms, peace necklaces, and several in the cover’s token neon marching band uniforms. The medley of bluesy rock anthem “Come Together,” dreamy “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and trippy “Across the Universe” were enhanced by psychedelic lighting and imagery.

HMC’s premier 12-man ensemble the HeartAches performed two stand-alone songs, firstly the King’s Singers’ antiquated chorale-style a cappella version of “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Its second tune, “Blackbird,” was possibly the sweetest rendition of the evening, accompanied only by guitar and featuring lovely, tender singing and noteworthy unison whistling.

Other soloists were comparably impressive. The wistful love ballad “Michelle” was sung with a pensive quality and precise French by Benjamin Helmers. Steven Jeffrey Karlin and Ryan Harris-Hernandez’s treatment of the verses to “We Can Work it Out” were mildly angst-filled, giving their brief duet a theatrical feel. Greg Maupins and Jeff Williams assuredly captured the gritty essence of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” One of the night’s most musically satisfying moments was when the chorus joined John Edmunds after his confident, relaxed introduction to “Hey Jude.”

Compliments must be paid to the artistic and production teams, who, through their lighting and tech work, upgraded the already high production value of typical HMC concerts to Kauffman-level worthiness. The instrumentalists deserve credit for successfully recreating the Beatles’ signature ‘60s timbre and playing suitable solos throughout the show as well.

The encores encompassed what HMC is all about: touching images projected in the background of friendship, family, unity, peace, and harmony accompanied “All You Need is Love,” and a reprise of “A Hard Day’s Night” was full of dancing, energy, flare, and pure fun. Aside from a few intonation slips, a couple of hesitant entrances, and loss of steam in a few sustained phrases, All You Need is Love was well-paced ninety minutes of uplifting, heartwarming delight and a proper tribute to pop music’s most influential foursome.

Heartland Men’s Chorus
All You Need is Love
June 16–17, 2012 (Reviewed Saturday, June 16)
Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
1601 Broadway, Kansas City, MO

Copyright © 2012 Used by permission.

HMC Presents Indivisible


CONTACT: Rick Fisher


For Tickets: 816.931.3338 or



Heartland Men’s Chorus Presents
Featuring Songs of Resistance & Remembrance plus the World Premiere of “We, The Unknown,”
A Choral Commission in Cooperation with
The National World War I Memorial & Museum,
Plus Special Guests
The Men of the U.S. Army Soldiers’ Chorus

Performances June 9 and 10, 2018 at The Folly Theater


KANSAS CITY, MO (March 26, 2018) — Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), announced Monday their 32nd season continues in June with INDIVISIBLE: SONGS OF RESISTANCE & REMEMBRANCE.


With the prejudice, inequality, bias and discrimination happening in the world around us, Heartland Men’s Chorus will present our response in song. Joining forces with the National World War I Memorial and Museum and the men of the United States Army Soldiers’ Chorus, “Indivisible” will celebrate the principles of our great nation’s founding . . . that ALL are created equal.


The first half of the concert features the World Premiere of a new choral work titled, We, The Unknown (WETU). The WETU project tells the “story” of how the Unknown Soldier of WWI was selected. WETU celebrates the importance and significance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, both as a literal resting place for those unknown who paid the ultimate sacrifice and as a symbol of the nation’s sacred honor to remember their service. HMC was inspired to commission this piece because 2018 is the centennial of our nation’s involvement in World War I and because Kansas City is home to the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The WETU project has been endorsed by the National World War I Centennial Commission. We are also honored that the men of the United States Army Soldiers’ Chorus, an ensemble of the U.S. Army Field Band, will be joining us in performance.


We, The Unknown was conceived by Rob Hill, a Heartland Men’s Chorus member and Board member, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and third-generation soldier whose paternal grandfather served in World War I and retired as a Brigadier General. The idea came to him after hearing how America’s Unknown Soldier was selected. Hill wondered, “What if the person selected was gay or African-American or someone who was afraid to go to into battle?” Initially, Hill considered almost every other format possible to tell the story. But when Hill joined Heartland Men’s Chorus, he decided that a choral work for men’s voices was the best medium to pay tribute not only to the Unknown Soldier but all who have served, many in silence.


“Remembering and honoring the dead is easier when they are known, when their names are spoken aloud. The purpose of the WETU Project is to honor the unknown, not only the unknown soldiers of WWI, but all who—in some way—have served and been forgotten, or serve but are forced to hide their authentic selves, or are missing in action,” said Hill.


Rather than use existing music, HMC’s artistic director, Dustin S. Cates, recommended a new commission and suggested composer Timothy C. Takach for the job. Takach, who co-created the theatrical production All is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914, with Peter Rothstein and sang with Cantus, one of the U.S.’s premier men’s vocal ensembles, is quickly becoming among the most sought-after choral composers in the nation.


“Working on We, the Unknown has been an exciting process for me,” said Takach. “My main collaborative partner during most of the creation was Robert Hill, who conceived the project and was one of the librettists. The first and main part of my creative process involved the words and the storytelling we wanted to tell, so Rob and I talked at length about the characters in the piece, their individual stories, and how best to bring them to life. Just as each character has a unique story to tell, I wanted to make sure that the musical character was different for each of them, too. The next step involved planning the pacing of the piece, who sings or plays when, and making sure the texture shifts and changes of character help keep the listener not only musically engaged, but emotionally, too. Certainly there are moments of sadness in these stories. But there are also the moments of pride, of doubt, of fear, and of love. This piece takes an anonymous person, whomever lies in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and conjectures about who they could have been. It takes the unknown and makes them known. Bringing these people to life has been a joy.”


Hill drafted the libretto based on a number of sources, particularly historical narratives about the role of Sargent Edward F. Younger in choosing the Unknown Soldier. Younger’s task was to select one coffin among four and the libretto gives voice to the four lives represented by the coffins:

  1. The first speaks of his fear and trepidation facing battle, but also the comradeship he feels for his fellow Soldiers.
  2. The second, an African-American, speaks of his desire to be seen as equally committed to his country and equally deserving of respect and honor.
  3. The third speaks of his love for another Soldier, hoping to see a better tomorrow for them both.
  4. The fourth, spoken through his mother, representative of Gold Star Mothers (those whose sons have died in battle), conveys a coming-of-age and how, even in war, beauty is still possible.

The libretto is a mix of original lyrics, poetry and narrative of the WWI era, including Alan Seeger’s I Have a Rendezvous with Death and John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields. Once he completed the draft, Hill felt a poet’s touch was needed. After some research, he reached out to Pat Daneman, past director of Hallmark Card’s writing studio, whose refinement of the lyrics gives each character their unique, very human voice. Hill said of Daneman, “Pat Daneman was the perfect writer to bring to this project. I discovered her poetry online and it resonated with me immediately. All I can say is that she transformed my crude characterizations of the four Unknowns into fully rounded individuals. Each Unknown became more authentic and vivid. Without question, Pat elevated the libretto to inspired and heartfelt art.”


We, the Unknown, the World Premiere, will take place 8:00 p.m., Saturday, June 9th, in the C. Stephen Metzler Hall at The Folly Theater. It is a theatrical telling of a choral work for men’s voices, soloists and chamber ensemble with 12 songs describing the stories of the Unknown. Single tickets available online beginning Monday, March 26.


The second half of our summer concert, Indivisible: Songs of Resistance and Remembrance, explores the dynamic, both positive and negative, that occurs between patriotism and protest in a democracy. Sometimes, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. showed us, protest becomes a means of expressing one’s patriotism or love of country. Similarly, those who have fought and died for our nation, particularly those in uniform, do so in order to preserve one of democracy’s fundamental rights . . . that of free expression, including protest. Heartland Men’s Chorus hopes to shine a positive light on protest and share a message of inclusivity, equality and social justice for this season ending performance. The repertory will include:


  1. Uprising of Love| Arr. Pakk Hui – This “anthem” was written by singing/songwriter Melissa Etheridge to support the safety and dignity of all people in the LGBTQIA community.
  2. Man in the Mirror| Arr. Ed Lojeski – The iconic Michael Jackson song that encourages each of us to look inside ourselves to create meaningful change in the world.
  3. Tell My Father| Arr. Andrea Ramsey – An emotional piece about the perils of combat arranged by Kansas City-based composer and friend of HMC, Andrea Ramsey.
  4. This Grass| Jacob Narverud – A world premiere of a piece written by Jacob Narverud, with text by UMKC director of Choral Studies, Dr. Robert Bode, to honor the lives lost in the senseless racially charged events in Charlottesville.
  5. A Set of Songs Performed by the United States Army Soldiers Chorus
  6. Homeland| Z. Randall Stroope – A soaring piece that is based on melody by Gustav Holst – “Homeland, the country that I love, hold out your arms to me. I strive for you, and give you the best I hope to be.”
  7. Seven Last Words of the Unarmed| Joel Thompson – A gripping work using the last words of seven unarmed black men who were shot by police officers.


  1. Kenneth Chamberlin
  2. Trayvon Martin
  3. Amadou Diallo
  4. Michael Brown
  5. Oscar Grant
  6. John Crawford
  7. Eric Garner


  1. Glory| Arr. Eugene Rogers – This Academy Award and Grammy Award Winning song, originally performed by rapper Common and singer John Legend, was written by Legend for the motion picture, Selma, which portrays the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. It will serve as a powerful ending to another incredible season of HMC concerts, spreading love and acceptance in a world of turmoil and hate.



Artistic Director Cates summed it up best saying, “Bringing people together is at the center of why Heartland Men’s Chorus exists.  Particularly in today’s polarized political climate, our hope is that this concert will offer an opportunity to consider and empathize with experiences different than our own, to celebrate the path to many of the freedoms we enjoy today, and to remember the sacrifices that were made on our behalf. We called this concert Indivisible because it is our aim that, through our music, storytelling and moving theatrical staging, our audiences leave feeling more united than divided—that we are one in working for the causes of liberty and justice for all!”


Indivisible will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 9th and 4 p.m. Sunday, June 10th in the C. Stephen Metzler Hall at the historic Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street, in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.


Tickets to both performances are available online at or by calling 816-931-3338. Prices range from $18 to $43 with special student pricing at $7. Come as you are, or come in full military uniform. But visit today!


ABOUT HEARTLAND MEN’S CHORUS – Heartland Men’s Chorus ( is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 32nd season. Founded in 1986 with 30 singers to make music, HMC quickly became a safe oasis for a community scarred by fear and hatred, while plagued by a virus. Now with 120 singers, HMC is a vital part of Kansas City’s robust arts and cultural scene, making the historic Folly Theater its performance home for 25 years. HMC also presents regional outreach concerts in a five-state area and has performed nationally and internationally in joint concerts with other GALA choruses. They regularly perform at GALA Choruses International festivals. The Kansas City Star has called Heartland Men’s Chorus “one of the most beloved arts institutions in Kansas City.”


Visit for more information about Heartland Men’s Chorus 2017-2018 season. High-resolution photos of the 2017-2018 Season can be obtained by contacting the chorus office at 816-816-931-3338.

Heartland Men’s Chorus Presents “ABBA-Cadabra!”

Put On Your Disco Boots and Channel Your Inner Dancing Queen as HMC Celebrates One of the Greatest Bands in Pop Music History!
Performances March 24 and 25, 2018 at The Folly Theater

Featuring 17 of ABBA’s Most Iconic Hits!

KANSAS CITY, MO (February 12, 2017) — Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), announced Monday their 32nd season continues in March with ABBA-Cadabra!  Who better to bring one of the greatest pop phenomenons in the history of music back to life than Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus!

Featuring the most iconic hits from one of the world’s most beloved bands, ABBA-Cadabra will be a musical extravaganza that includes a full evening of toe-tapping ABBA favorites. It will take you back to the 1970’s and have you screaming, “Thank you for the music” before the curtain falls.

The ABBA phenomenon began in 1974 in Brighton, England, where “Waterloo” became the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest. That hit song was truly the break through for the quartet, made up of Swed’s Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersoon and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who, with their short skirts and headbands, would go on to sell more albums than any other group second only to The Beatles. They ruled the international disco music market for a decade with their long blonde hair and their long list of chart topping music.

Under the baton of Artistic Director Dustin S. Cates, Heartland Men’s Chorus will be donning platform shoes and bell-bottom pants to celebrate all that is ABBA including (but certainly not limited to) iconic favorites like:

  • “Does Your Mother Know” – This 1979 single was atypical but a fun piano-driven, boogie-disco song that will truly be performed “HMC style” with tons of fun!
  • “Super Trouper” – One of ABBA’s biggest hits that begs to be sung at the top of one’s lungs, it opens with a cappella magic then finds the addictive staccato chorus.
  • “Mamma Mia” – Undoubtedly set in history by the Broadway play and the movie led by Academy Award Winner Meryl Streep, no ABBA show is complete without it.
  • “Dancing Queen” – No ABBA concert produced by a gay men’s chorus would be complete without the iconic “Dancing Queen.” It is the masterpiece that’s outlasted the disco era to become a standard of modern-day dance music that can get a room moving with its opening notes.

Artistic Director Cates summed it up best saying, “The curtain will be rising on ‘ABBA-Cadabra’ with more sparkle than a disco ball! We’re even choosing audience members to come backstage and be made over like Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni. Our concerts always have something for everyone and will leave you with a message and a song in your heart.  It will be a performance for all ages . . . anyone who loves the music of ABBA will love this concert!”

ABBA-Cadabra will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 24th and 4 p.m. Sunday, March 25th in the C. Stephen Metzler Hall at the historic Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street, in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Tickets to both performances are available online at or by calling 816-931-3338. Prices range from $18 to $43 with special student pricing at $7. Come as you are. Or come dressed as ABBA! But visit today!

ABOUT HEARTLAND MEN’S CHORUS – Heartland Men’s Chorus ( is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 32nd season. Founded in 1986 with 30 singers to make music, HMC quickly became a safe oasis for a community scarred by fear and hatred, while plagued by a virus. Now with 120 singers, HMC is a vital part of Kansas City’s robust arts and cultural scene, making the historic Folly Theater its performance home for 25 years. HMC also presents regional outreach concerts in a five-state area and has performed nationally and internationally in joint concerts with other GALA choruses. They regularly perform at GALA Choruses International festivals. The Kansas City Star has called Heartland Men’s Chorus “one of the most beloved arts institutions in Kansas City.”

Visit for more information about Heartland Men’s Chorus 2016-2017 season. High-resolution photos of the 2016-2017 Season can be obtained by contacting the chorus office at 816-816-931-3338.



Information for Folly Theater parking can be found online at The parking garage, immediately west of the Folly Theater, is the primary parking garage for Heartland Men’s Chorus patrons. Event parking is $8 per car and may be purchased upon arrival (cash only at the gate).


HMC’s 32nd Season is underwritten by Hotel Phillips. Other sponsors include the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation; Missouri Arts Council; Hall Family Foundation, Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Arts Council of Greater Kansas City, and the Kansas City Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund (NTDF).

Student Discounts

Student tickets are available for $7 (with valid ID, one ticket per ID). They may be purchased in advance by calling the HMC box office at 816-931-3338 or at the door prior to the performances based on availability. The Box Office opens one hour prior to all performances.

Social Media

Receive updates by joining Heartland Men’s Chorus’ Page at and following @hmchorus on Twitter.


Heartland Men’s Chorus

2017-2018 Full Season at a Glance


From The Heart (FALL SHOW)

November 10, 2017 | Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS

Friday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Packages With Beaus (HOLIDAY SHOW)

December 2-3, 2017 | Folly Theater, Kansas City, MO

Sat., Dec. 2, 8:00 p.m.

Sun., Dec. 3, 4:00 p.m.

December 9, 2017 | Yardley Hall, Carlsen Center, JCCC, OPKS

Sat., Dec. 9, 8:00 p.m.


March 24-25, 2018 | Folly Theater, Kansas City, MO

Sat., Mar. 24, 8:00 p.m.

Sun., Mar. 25, 4:00 p.m.

We hope you’ll put on your disco boots and channel your inner dancing queen as HMC celebrates one of the greatest bands in popular music history. Featuring everything in the ABBA repertoire from “Take a Chance on Me!” to “Mamma Mia,” you’re sure to be singing at the top of your lungs before the curtain falls. We plan to be completely silly and have a great time to say, “Thank you for the music!” Single tickets available now.

 Indivisible (SUMMER SHOW)

June 9-10, 2018 | Folly Theater, Kansas City, MO

Sat., June. 9, 8:00 p.m.

Sun., June 10, 4:00 p.m.

Ever wonder about the phrase “With Liberty and Justice for All?” We certainly do and with the prejudice, inequality, bias and discrimination happening in the world around us, Heartland Men’s Chorus will present our response, “Indivisible.” HMC will be joining forces with the National World War I Memorial and Museum to celebrate the principles of our great nation’s founding . . . that ALL are created equal. Single tickets available online beginning Monday, March 26.


Please direct all media inquiries to Rick Fisher, 816-931-3338 or


From the Heart – Tom Dillon

My name is Tom Dillon. I am in my third year as a Baritone with Heartland Men’s Chorus.  Originally from Connecticut, I spent some time in Minnesota and South Carolina as well. I moved to Missouri in 1998 and settled my family here. In 2013, I began living as my authentic self after a 20-year marriage ended that produced three great kids.  In the process of finding myself I participated in my church’s production of “Godspell.” At age 44, it was my first participation in musical theater, outside of high school/college/church choir.

While continuing my coming out journey, I attended my first HMC concert, “A Little Bit Wicked,” in June 2015. I met some terrific guys in the chorus over the summer and in September I auditioned. The chorus opened up a new outlet of support, friendship and a chance to have fun. One of my older brothers passed away at the age of 49 and that experience taught me to live life. So I have stepped out of comfort zones, performed as a reindeer, and have even been granted a few solos.  Performing with HMC has also given me an opportunity to lend my voice to the message we bring through song and performance.  Paraphrasing Dustin Cates, HMC Artistic Director, “When a gay men’s chorus sings some of these lyrics they take on a whole new meaning!” I couldn’t agree more.  Sometimes in rehearsals I tear up just singing certain phrases, and internalizing and personalizing them.  Music is powerful. My hope is that my singing helps to articulate that meaning for those listening.

As a late bloomer, HMC has been a safe place for me to explore who I am and to flourish. I have taken the opportunity to be involved in planning HMC events like our annual gala fundraiser, Dinner of Note, and some social gatherings as a way to broaden my horizons. I enjoy lending my voice outside of singing.  I feel a part of the HMC family as it has become an extension of my own amazing blood family. The friendships I have formed have sustained me at this stage in my life.

Tom Dillon

From the Heart – Holden Kraus

I am (now) an Upper Tenor 2 with HMC and joined the Chorus as a Lower 1st Tenor in January of 2015 in A Little Bit Wicked. I fell in love with the sound of the Chorus during KC Pride as I sat on a bench in the Power and Light District listening to the greatest hits of The Beatles. I knew, at that moment, that I needed to be a part of HMC! Unfortunately, due to my schedule, I had to wait a little bit to make that a reality.


I am an 8th grade Math teacher at West Middle School in Lawrence. I have taught 8th grade Math, Algebra 1, and Geometry for the last 6 years. I am a proud graduate of Pittsburg State University with a Masters degree in Mathematics and I am currently pursuing an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction (fancy phrase for “teaching”) with a focus in Mathematics at UMKC. 7 semesters to go!

In my free time (you know.. between semesters in the winter), I enjoy reading good books, travelling to Seattle, and puttering around Kansas City exploring new shops and events. Most of my time now is spent reading research articles and writing papers so any little sliver of free time is greatly cherished!

I joined HMC because I needed to feel connected to the LGBTQ+ community and because I have always loved to sing. In the short two years that I’ve been with the Chorus, I have made friends that will last a lifetime. There are always new connections to be made and I think the Chorus is a great way to do that!

Holden Kraus