All you need is HMC

Kristin Shafel Omiccioli |

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 fromLiverpool—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’ 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
For more information, visit

Heartland Men’s Chorus brings the music of The Beatles to life

Steve Wilson |

The Heartland Men’s Chorus performed their final show of the season and their first show in their new venue, The Muriel Kauffman Theatre inside the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, on Saturday to a sold out house. “All You Need Is Love” is a musical tribute to the Beatles, Dr. Joseph P. Nadeau Artistic Director.

The show begins as the curtain goes up and projected on a thin screen in front of the chorus is an old time black and white television set. On the screen of the television appears Ed Sullivan introducing the “youngsters from Liverpool” for the first time on American television. From the opening number and right up to the curtain going down for the final time the chorus rocked the house. Several times the audience interacted with the chorus, clapping to the beat of the music.

Accompanied on piano by Robert Lamar Sims the chorus began with their rendition of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. They perform a medley of three songs before the Heartaches, a 12 person ensemble of singers, take the stage for “Can’t Buy Me love.” The full chorus then performed a fabulous three song medley.

The third medley began with “Eleanor Rigby” and then a solo performance by Benjamin Helmers of “Michelle.” That was followed by a solo presentation by John Edmonds singing “Hey Jude”. The solo performances like the ones to follow were magnificent.

After the intermission the chorus returns to the stage wearing clothing reminiscent of the 1960’s. Greg Maupins and Jeff Williams began with solo performances of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Other solo performers were Steven Jeffrey Karlin, Ryan Harris-Hernandez, Eric Aufdengarten and Brandon Shelton. Two songs later the Heartaches again took the stage for “Blackbird.”

Several of the songs were accompanied by dancers in front of the chorus. The dancers were choreographed by Tracie Davis. The dancers and the special effects on the wall behind the chorus only enhanced an already spectacular show. During the performance Rick McAdams stood to the right front of the stage interpreting the show with sign language.

From the stage hand that helped build the set, to the musicians, the chorus, the dancers and everyone involved in the show congratulations for creating a memorable program for anyone who had the good fortune to attend it. There could not have been a more spectacular end to their season. One can only speculate how good the next season might be.

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.

Heartland Men’s Chorus teams with Dan Savage to increase awareness of bullying

Libby Hanssen | The Kansas City Star

The Heartland Men’s Chorus’ “When I Knew” production tugged at the heartstrings with an emotional and uplifting performance Saturday night at the Folly Theater.

The 160-member all-volunteer ensemble, directed by Joseph Nadeau, performed for a sold-out crowd. Presented by the Bacchus Foundation, the concert focused on issues faced in the gay community: bullying, awareness and acceptance.

They teamed up with columnist/activist Dan Savage for the latest presentation in HMC’s series of musical documentaries. Savage is co-founder of the “It Gets Better” video campaign directed at supporting and protecting gay youth.

Throughout the concert, Robert Lamar Sims provided steady, sensitive accompaniment on piano and sign language interpreter Rick McAdams added dramatic and evocative gestures.

The first half of the program addressed the problem of bullying and opened with a directed “Don’t Laugh at Me” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Not While I’m Around.”

The chorus then launched into a presentation of the children’s story “Oliver Button is a Sissy,” written by Tomie dePaola. The half-hour musical, composed by Alan Shorter, was co-commissioned by the chorus in 2000. The story was narrated by Chris Hernandez and the title role of a tap-dancing, imaginative young boy was performed by Steven Jeffrey Karlin.

The second half of the program featured a variety of works interspersed with personal stories from chorus members and friends of the ensemble. These stories explored the individuals’ first awareness of their sexuality and included coming-out stories. Savage narrated the selections, which included his own reminiscence.

Projections cast on a scrim added dimension to the stories and songs. Witty, well-designed illustrations accompanied Savage’s words. Vintage photos of children were illuminated during “If You Only Knew;” photos of gay youth lost to suicide were shown while “All This Joy” was sung in their memory.

“When I Knew,” by Daniel Doss, was commissioned for this presentation and included voices of solidarity in prerecorded stories. It was a tear-jerker.

A brief montage from the “It Gets Better Project” was followed by rousing applause.

The program tempered the heavy emotional message with some fun numbers, like the cheekily empowering “Affirmation.”

The finale was an enthusiastic rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” The men whipped off their tuxedo jackets to reveal message t-shirts proudly emblazoned with “GEEK,” “SISSY” and “LIKES GUYS,” while joyously dancing under rainbow-colored strobe-lights.

For their encore, the chorus invited a group of teenagers to join them in performing “I Sing Out.”

The program will be repeated at4 p.m. Sunday, preceded by the panel discussion “On The Way to Better” at 1:30 p.m.

Donning their inclusive apparel

By Tom Marks |

Over the past five months, various choral ensembles have graced Kansas City’s stages and churches with their talents. From world renowned, nationally touring choirs to our own local gems, this city has experienced a wide range of talent, style, and artistry—now the Heartland Men’s Chorus can add their name to this ever-growing list. Opening their 26th season, the Heartland Men’s Chorus presented “Holiday Glee” Friday night to a nearly full audience. Appropriately titled, their concert warmed the audience with all-purpose, entertaining seasonal cheer.

Opening the night on a fiscally positive note, Heartland Men’s Chorus received a considerably large monetary donation from the Bacchus Foundation for support in their current season. Following this affirmative gesture, Joseph Nadeau, artistic director and conductor, took stage as the curtain rose, revealing the sharply dressed and eager-to-sing choir.

The ensemble began their concert with a traditional Zambian song, “Bonse Aba.” Classic Christmas tunes followed at which point, in characteristic style, the Heartland Men’s Chorus presented a Hawaiian themed “Mele Kalikimaka” by R. Alex Anderson, complete with flowery leis, grass skirts, and yes, coconut bras. The entertaining selection featured guest conductor, Andrea Bough, and the HMC Holiday Dance Team—a group of eight, fearless men who unabashedly displayed their committed, amusing, and downright entertaining dance moves.

After this laughable romp was the more sincere “Dona Nobis Pacem” by Joseph Gregorio. Though intonation issues pervaded this piece’s delicate texture, the dedication and earnestness revealed in the faces comprising this all-male ensemble overshadowed these issues, drawing the audience past the music’s technical aspects to the truly sincere and, consequentially, more significant way in which it was presented.

“Shehecheyanu”, a traditional Hebrew song arranged by Charlie Beale, paid homage to the chorus’ “Ad Astra” members who have passed away. Solos from singer Keith Wiedenkeller and bassoonist Keel Williams accented the somber Hebrew tune. The solemn tone was quickly dissipated, however, by a holiday medley dedicated to the teddy bear. Though the arrangement was terrible, the Heartland Men’s Chorus brought the same dedication to this piece seen previously and sold it to the audience with equal effectiveness. The HMC Holiday Dance Team once again grabbed attention during this selection as they playfully paraded around the stage in various manifestations of teddy bear costumes.

It wouldn’t have been a holiday concert without a selection from Handel’s Messiah. Closing out the first half was a modern rendition of the “Hallelujah” Chorus that had the audience clapping and moving in their seats to the upbeat, pop arrangement of this holiday staple.

Somehow, the second half of the concert presented even more riotous, humorous holiday music from the HMC.  “Hanukah Gloves” by M. Charnin and R. Gray described the comical plight of a young man waiting in the checkout line as he tried to buy his mother the exciting gift of gloves for Hanukah, and was entertainingly acted by soloist, Wilson L. Allen.

Arguably the most entertaining selection for the evening was the “Nativity ‘Set.’” I didn’t think it was possible to mix Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” with Christmas lyrics, but somehow the Heartland Men’s Chorus managed to do so with tasteful effectiveness. I found myself laughing out loud at the ridiculous lyrics in the set’s second piece, “We the Kings (ala Jerry Herman).” As the chorus asked, “who are the men in the three cotton dresses?” Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior appeared onstage in full fabulousness with colorful costumes and ornate headdresses.

The concert wrapped up with “Peace, Peace/Silent Night,” arranged by Rick and Sylvia Powell. This famous Christmas tune interestingly asked for audience participation. In addition to singing a verse with the HMC, the audience joined sign language interpreter Rick McAdams (who had been signing the night’s concert from the corner of the stage) in a completely soundless rendition of “Silent Night,” performed wholly in sign language. The hush in the theater created an effective, quiet reverence on which to the end the night. After the rousing applause that followed, the HMC concluded with an encore encouraging the audience to “keep Christmas in your heart the whole year through.”

The Heartland Men’s Chorus provides a valuable addition to Kansas City’s already diverse choral scene. Though musical issues appeared throughout the performance (problems with pitch, blend, and some unstable voices), their well-programmed, entertainingly performed concert overshadowed these issues. The men’s devotion to the ensemble and their consistently playful attitude toward the music was effectively transferred to their dedicated and appreciative audience. This group provides a necessary balance to Kansas City’s choral scene with their fun, purely entertaining and enjoyable performance.


Heartland Men’s Chorus
Holiday Glee
Friday, December 2, 2011(Reviewed)
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Folly Theater
300 W. 12th Street, Kansas City, MO
For more information, visit