This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Gateway Men’s Chorus celebrated its 25th anniversary season in 2012; and under the direction of Artistic Director Al Fischer, the 80-plus-member group is certainly not resting on its laurels.
The chorus, which has the stated mission to “affirm and promote gay culture and acceptance through excellence in musical performance and education,” is bringing in Fred Schneider, singer and founder of the new wave group B-52s, for its next musical event.
“This is the first time Fred has worked with Gateway Men’s Chorus,” says Fischer during a recent telephone interview. “We were lucky that Joe Gfaller, who is a member of the chorus and also works as the director for marketing and public relations for Opera Theatre of St. Louis, knows Fred. Joe contacted Fred to see if he was interested. It turned out he was very enthusiastic about being part of it.”
Schneider’s appearances with the Gateway Men’s Chorus – billed as “Bad Boys” – are scheduled Friday and Saturday, March 15 & 16 at the 560 Music Center in University City. According to Fischer, audiences this weekend at “Bad Boys” can expect to hear classic B-52 hits such as “Love Shack,” “Planet Clair,” “Monster” and “Hot Pants Explosion” – but performed with a decidedly different twist.
“It turned out that Fred had never worked with a large chorus before,” explains Fischer. “So we put together a tentative program, and of course, included some of the great B-52 hits as well as a song from Fred’s solo recordings. Then we created some arrangements of those songs for the chorus, recorded them and sent them to Fred. We’ve been going back and forth with him putting the program together, and Fred has been kind enough to come into town for a full week to rehearse the program with us.
Fred got into St. Louis on March 10, says Fischer. “Then he’ll be working with the group all week up until the performances Friday and Saturday. Fred’s really been very generous with his time.”
According to Fischer, Schneider will be featured in both the first half of the concert and after intermission. But he emphasized that “Bad Boys” will feature the chorus performing a wide array of material in addition to arrangements of songs by the B-52s and Schneider’s other music.
“I like to put interesting shows together,” Fischer says. “And I love to juxtapose different things that, at first glance, might not seem to really fit together. It’s a great way to add freshness and variety to a format that that might have a tendency to become too familiar.”
Fischer didn’t want to give away the entire lineup of music for “Bad Boys,” but audiences can expect to hear songs by made famous by Chuck Berry, Madonna, Peggy Lee and Rufus Wainwright as well as hits from Broadway musicals.
“It’s definitely going to be a fun evening,” Fischer says. “And the chorus will be doing more than just singing. A very talented member of the chorus, Mike Hodges, is our new choreographer, and he’s put together some special moves for the chorus – as well as putting together a new dance team for the chorus. And we’ve got an amazing band that will be playing for ‘Bad Boys’ as well. The orchestra pit will definitely be rockin’!”
Fischer has been artistic director for Gateway Men’s Chorus since 2011, but his history with the group goes back much further.
“Before I was artistic director, I spent three years as the accompanist for the chorus,” says Fischer. “And I’ve been with the chorus as a member for quite awhile before that. It’s been a wonderful experience. I first came to St. Louis to work with theater groups like Stages and Metro Theater, but working with the chorus – especially as the artistic director – has been an amazing experience!
For more information about Gateway Men’s Chorus and “Bad Boys,” go to www.gmcstl.org.