HMC Presents Falling In Love Again

Heartland Men’s Chorus takes on the ambitious task of examining two radically different periods in German history through song. The 130-voice gay men’s chorus will present Falling in Love Again March 23 and 24, 2013 at the Folly Theater. The concert provides a fascinating glimpse into a period of history often ignored: the halcyon days of gay life in pre-war Berlin, and the subsequent persecution of gays during the Holocaust.

In 1920s Berlin, gay culture flourished: hundreds of cabarets offered a bawdy, excessive and vibrant nightlife. But the next decade would bring unspeakable horrors: gays sent to their death for an inappropriate look or touch.

Using music of the period (“Mack the Knife,” “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön,” “Love for Sale”) and songs from Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, HMC seeks to capture the raucous and outrageous gay culture of pre-war Berlin in the first act of the concert.

Eric Lane Barnes, assistant artistic director of Seattle Men’s Chorus, was given the difficult task of researching, selecting, and arranging the pieces for the concert’s first half. “I loved creating the atmosphere of this half,” he said. “The whole Weimar period is so culturally, artistically, philosophically and theatrically rich. There is so much documentation of the period; it’s been so fascinating and rewarding to learn about it.”

A particularly astonishing find was Lane Barnes’ discovery of a song written in 1920 and entitled, “Das Lila Lied,” or “The Lavender Song,” one of the first known gay liberation songs. German cabaret singer Ute Lemper recently released her own version, calling out the bigotry of those who “make our lives hell here on Earth/poisoning us with guilt and shame.” With a chorus that begins, “We’re not afraid to be queer and different,” the song delivered a bold statement in its day, even for Weimar-eraBerlin. Nonetheless, several surviving recordings by major band leaders suggest that it was a popular cabaret act.

Act II features the Midwest premiere of Jake Heggie’s For a Look or a Touch, a stirring dramatic tale of two lovers sent to the Nazi concentration camps—one who is exterminated and one who lives to recount a love lost and unspoken. Originally commissioned by Seattle non-profit Music of Remembrance, and featuring a libretto by Gene Scheer, the one-act opera is based on stories from the documentary film Paragraph 175, and the journal of Manfred Lewin from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

The piece features two major characters. The first is the ghost of Manfred Lewin, murdered by the Nazis in 1942. The role was sung during the work’s premiere by operatic baritone Morgan Smith who will reprise his role in the HMC production. Actor Kip Niven plays Gad Beck, Manfred’s lover, who managed to survive the War and is now elderly. One night Manfred visits Gad to help him remember their love and time together; they share memories, and relate what happened to each of them in the camps. In the end, Gad not only remembers, but embraces those memories.

In addition to guest artists Smith and Niven, dancer Stephen Plante will appear in the concert’s second act, performing choreography by William Whitener, artistic director of Kansas City Ballet.

In researching the program, HMC artistic director Dr. Joseph Nadeau discovered fascinating background material concerning the music of the period, the gay culture of pre-war Berlin, and the characters portrayed in For a Look or a Touch. The Chorus has created an online journal at to enhance the concert experience for audience members.

One of HMC’s most ambitious concerts to date, Falling in Love Again has allowed the Chorus to collaborate with partners across the Kansas City’s cultural and academic communities.

In partnership with The University of Missouri-Kansas City and The Kansas City Museum, the Chorus will co-present the exhibition Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945, on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Through reproductions of some 250 historic photographs and documents, the exhibition examines the rationale, means, and impact of the Nazi regime’s attempt to eradicate homosexuality that left thousands dead and shattered the lives of many more.

Admission is free and the exhibition will be open to the public from February 16 through April 10 at the Dean’s Gallery of Miller Nichols Library, University of Missouri-Kansas City (800 E 51st, Kansas City, Mo.). The library is open Sunday, 1-11 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Metered parking at UMKC is available Monday – Friday in the lot directly North of Miller Nichols Library at Rockhill Road and 51st Street. Parking is open and free on Saturdays and Sundays. The exhibit is sponsored by the UMKC Division of Diversity, Access and Equality, and the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America.

Additional events, including screenings of the films Paragraph 175 and Bent, will take place throughout the spring. Complete details are available at

Heartland Men’s Chorus presents Falling in Love Again, Saturday March 23, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, March 24, 2013, at 4:00 p.m. at the Folly Theater (300 West 12th Street, Kansas City, Mo.). Tickets from $15 – $35 are available at or by calling (816) 931-3338.