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Chorus focuses on peace this holiday season

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The phrase “Peace on Earth” evokes many different meanings for New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus director Aaron Howe.

Using it as the theme for the group’s upcoming holiday concert, he says he thought not only of creating a space where people can “acknowledge each other’s humanity” despite their differences, but also more broadly about the acceptance and security that comes with peace, particularly for people facing discrimination or living in war-torn countries. He said that, above all, peace means “looking out for the wellbeing of everyone.”

“When we ask for peace on Earth, we’re not just asking Republicans and Democrats to stop fighting, but acknowledging around the world that people need help and they need security,” said Howe.

For the second year in a row, the Gay Men’s Chorus will kick off its holiday shows in the City Different. “Peace on Earth” will be performed at the Lensic on Wednesday. The final three shows will be in Albuquerque Dec. 7-9.

Though the inspiration for the concert’s theme comes from a heavy place, Howe said that doesn’t reflect the entire holiday show.

“We try to mix serious and sometimes emotional, but also fun and a little bit mischievous,” Howe explained.

The program includes takes on such classics as a “smooth jazz” version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and an arrangement of “Jingle Bells” made famous by early-20th-century singer and “Eloise” children’s series author Kay Thompson. Some movements from “Carols and Lullabies: Christmas in the Southwest” and “Ose Shalom,” a Jewish prayer song asking for peace in Israel, are also included.

The group will bring a twist to “We Need a Little Christmas” from the Broadway show “Mame,” offering a samba version of the show tune, complete with choreography.

“I like for the arrangements to be fun, have a little cleverness to it, maybe something they (the audience) haven’t heard sung that way before,” he said.

For this year’s show, the NMGMC commissioned an arrangement merging John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and the New Year’s classic “Auld Lang Syne.” Howe said he selected the two songs because of similar sentiments falling within the show’s theme, with both representing an “end to hostility.”

He cited the story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. During World War I, thousands of French, German and British troops observed a cease fire on Christmas Day, during which they joined together and sang carols. The final song the troops sang together, according to Howe, was “Auld Lang Syne.”

“It’s what I’m trying to get at, the idea of peace,” Howe said of the medley. “Peace means being able to wish other people well, to be able to say that even though we disagree, we can share a cup of kindness – because ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is a drinking song – and we can drink together and be friends as much as we can.”