PR for People Monthly February 2020 | Page 4

On a recent winter afternoon in Seattle, the walk through downtown streets is under gray skies and drippy awnings, with a chilling breeze coming off Elliott Bay. A block away, a siren harangues through the concrete canyon of I-5.

But we’re already turning the corner, mounting the steps, and pushing through the doors of Plymouth Congregational Church. And before the doors have even had a chance to close behind us, we’ve entered an entirely different vibe – the full-throated, glorious sound of the Seattle Men’s Chorus in rehearsal.

Mind you, up on stage at the front of the room, the man waving his arms behind the black Manhasset music stand doesn’t think it’s glorious – at least not yet.

SMC Artistic Director Paul Caldwell cuts the chorus off mid-verse with a swipe of his baton.

“I’m just gonna tell y’all the truth,” he says. The twang of his southern upbringing sounds exotic in a region that fancies its native dialect as exceptionally accent-free.

He peers at them over his frame glasses.

“There’s a lot of squirreliness with the notes in that section. Imagine if Evan – ” and Caldwell points at the Chorus’s stellar accompanist, Evan Stults, who is sitting at the grand piano in the corner “—imagine if he was playing it with his catcher’s mitt on. That’s what I’m hearing.”

He looks back down at the music score.

“Let’s try it again from the pick-up to measure 50.”

Caldwell has the kind of lean frame that Woody, the cowboy sheriff from Toy Story, could have been modeled after. And Caldwell employs his entire body in his conducting style – snapping his fingers to communicate the time, leaning into passages for more emotion, puffing up his chest to convey greater volume to his singers, thrashing the air for more emphasis, and variously pleading for more tenderness from the tenors, or more bad-assery from the bass section – “I feel like you’re being too… demure.”

But as the Artistic Director puts chorus members through their paces, he does it not only with aesthetic precision but also with a crackling sense of humor and an abundance of energy that might best be described as joy.

Rehearsals are normally held on weeknights, but this is a special, daylong, Saturday convening, and even so there are over 120 singers present – an inter-generational, multiracial gathering of singers who identify as LGBTQ. The members of the Seattle Men’s Chorus embrace the transformative mission of using their voices not only to entertain, but also to build community. The Chorus sings to illuminate the experiences of LGBTQ people, to expand inclusion and to inspire justice.


by Barbara Lloyd McMichael

Seattle Men’s Chorus in Concert Photo credit: John Pai