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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When the members of the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus take the stage this weekend for their two Hollywood Holiday—Christmas at the Movies concerts, they’ll be without one of their most prominent and beloved colleagues.

David Murdock, a singer who had also done everything from sound to public relations for the chorus over the last half-decade, died suddenly on Oct. 17. Murdock was also an active member of the Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert, and was a key organizer of Palm Springs Leather Pride. He’d spent much of his life working in the entertainment and technology industries. Countless people—myself included—considered David a friend.

The chorus performed at Murdock’s memorial service at the Palm Springs Pavilion on Dec. 4, and this weekend, the PSGMC is dedicating its performance of “The Prayer”—a song from the film Quest for Camelot popularized by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli—to Murdock.

“I can’t even describe all that Dave did for the chorus,” said Douglas Wilson, the PSGMC artistic director. “We joined the chorus at the same time, but I didn’t know that until later, because he had jumped in and was doing everything.”

Hollywood Holiday is the first of the chorus’ three featured concerts this season—and the chorus’ first in its new home, the newly upgraded Richards Center for the Arts, formerly known as the Palm Springs High School Auditorium.

“It’s a beautiful place to be,” said Wilson, who is in his fourth year as the chorus’ artistic director.

As one can guess from the title, Hollywood Holiday features Christmas songs from various movies. Giving the holiday concert such a focus, Wilson said, helped the chorus overcome some of the normal difficulties in creating a Christmas program—new versus traditional, religious versus nonreligious, and so on.

“It is a difficult program to balance out,” Wilson said. “This year, with the idea of movies, it really made it easier to do.”

However, the focus created another difficulty—finding arrangements of not-as-well-known songs for men’s choruses. Wilson said he overcame this obstacle by tapping into the network of other gay men’s choruses—and, in some cases, arranging the songs himself.

As one example of a lesser-known but nonetheless excellent song in the show, Wilson mentioned “Cold Enough to Snow,” from Life With Mikey, a 1993 comedy starring Michael J. Fox—with a dismal 20 percent positive rating on RottenTomatoes.com.

“It’s not a very good movie, but it has a beautiful song,” Wilson said.

Wilson mentioned another song about which he’s excited: “Sparklejollytwinklejingley,” from the Broadway production of Elf: The Musical. While “Sparklejollytwinklejingley” is not from a movie, it is from a musical based on a movie.

“We’re kind of stretching it here,” Wilson laughed. Close enough.

Wilson promised that attendees will love the mix of songs, some of which are from beloved films including The Polar Express, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Meet Me in St. Louis.

The concert may also be a little more emotional than usual, given Dave Murdock’s absence. Wilson mentioned the large reaction he received from the chorus’ members after they were sent a message letting them know about Murdock’s passing.

“What really surprised me was how many people who were new to the chorus—only members for a few weeks, really—who responded, ‘Dave was one of the first people to say hello to me,’ or, ‘Dave helped me.’ He was the epitome of what we want to be as a chorus,” Wilson said.

Hollywood Holiday: Christmas at the Movies will be performed at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18, at the Richards Center for the Arts (formerly known as the Palm Springs High School Auditorium), 2401 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25-$50. For tickets or more information, call 760-219-2077, or visit www.psgmc.com.

Published in Previews

When announcements started to pop up for two different gay men’s choruses last year, many people wondered why a not-so-large area like the Coachella Valley had two such choruses.

Turns out the groups have different philosophies—and the two choruses are offering two very different holiday shows this year.

The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus—the older, more established organization—will be doing a modernism-themed show.

“The theme of our show this year is A Mid-Century Modern Holiday, said Doug Wilson, the artistic director of the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus. “If you look at midcentury architecture, it’s usually thought of being from 1945 to 1965, and we looked at the music written during that time period. We’re doing ‘Winter Wonderland,’ ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas’ and ‘You Better Watch Out.’ We’re doing a lot of the songs that are really familiar to everyone. We’re also doing three Elvis Christmas hits.”

The program being offered by the newer group, Modern Men, is more relaxed in terms of a production, and is focused on the sentimental aspect of Christmas. After a show on Wednesday, Dec. 3, the chorus is offering a second performance on Saturday, Dec. 6.

“The concert title is Stars I Shall Find,” said Bruce Mangum, the artistic director of Modern Men. “We’re doing a mixture of traditional Christmas carols and holiday songs combined with some newer songs from the past 10 years or so. We’re including one powerful number called ‘Not in Our Town,’ which is based on an incident in Billings, Mont., where the town gathered around a Jewish family in support of them after being victims of a hate crime. We also do the traditional holiday songs.”

Back to the reason why there are now two gay men’s choruses in Palm Springs: There was a split due to the aforementioned differing philosophies. Someone who has been part of both choruses and who wished to remain anonymous said the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus had reached a huge 117 members at one point, and there was a disagreement between the artistic director at the time and the board of directors over the music, as well as other issues. The rift led to the formation of Modern Men. Some members have gone back and forth between the groups, and both groups have gone through recent leadership changes.

The directors offered their own perspectives.

“My answer is that it gives the guys a choice to select which group they want to be part of,” said Modern Men’s Mangum. “Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus is more known for their production-type concerns, and Modern Men is more known for just stand-and-sing. I just consider it the same as: Why do we have more than one restaurant or more than one real estate agency? It just gives people a choice. We invite people to find their niche.”

Mangum added that everyone is welcome in Modern Men.

“We have three straight men who sing with us, and that’s part of our credo, which is we invite all men, gay and straight, to consider Modern Men for their choral group,” he said. “We don’t even have the word ‘gay’ in our title. We reach out to the straight community as well for any men who like to sing and enjoy men’s choral music.”

Wilson said there are two choruses because there are two different visions of what a men’s chorus should be.

“There are enough men and enough diversity in thought of what a chorus should be that two choruses came out of that,” said Wilson. “People have different ideas of what a musical chorus should be doing, and we wanted to something that was a little more fun, and we also wanted to do a wider range of music. Sometimes other choruses want to do something that’s more a narrower range of music.”

Both choruses seem to have a lot to offer the community, and both have a committed group of volunteers.

“The volunteers really make a big difference,” Wilson said. “They want to contribute something to the chorus, and this is how they can contribute. They are probably not singers, and a lot of them have the skills we need to do a lot of the work.”

Mangum said Modern Men’s volunteers are also very dedicated.

“Most of our volunteers are spouses or partners of our members,” Mangum said. “We rely on them for last-minute details, and I’m very proud to say that this year, we are ahead in our ticket sales. ... We were ahead in the schedule, and that was thanks to our members getting the word out. They are invaluable, for sure.”

Both choruses are also looking ahead to their spring programs.

“We start right away in January in rehearsals for our spring concert, which is in April,” Mangum said. “The title of that is Get Your Kicks, and it will feature songs of basically the ’40s through the ’60s. It’s going to be a fun concert and kind of nostalgic for people.”

Meanwhile, the Gay Men’s Chorus will head to the 1970s for their spring show.

“In the spring, we’re doing what’s called ExtrABBAganza,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be all music from ABBA. I think it’s going to be great fun.”

In a related story, also see: Christmas With the Band: The Desert Winds Freedom Band’s Holiday Show Focuses on Classics.

Modern Men will be performing at 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6, at Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25. For tickets or more information, visit www.modernmen.org. (Pictured below.)

The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14, also at Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets $25 to $50. For tickets or more information, visit www.psgmc.com.

Published in Previews