For many a year, BCCO has held a Chorus Retreat—a three-day weekend to hunker down and really concentrate on the musical works we’ll be presenting in concert at the end of the semester.
Back in the day, the Retreat was in the fall; lately, it’s been in the spring. For the 2016 retreat we’ll gather at Camp Arroyo in the Livermore hills.
We started out at Cazadero Music Camp, and it may have been the presence of a Chinese gong on their outdoor stage that inspired the idea of the Untalent Show. I don’t know who came up with the “Untalent” title, but it served to encourage people of varying talents (but undoubted enthusiasm and courage!) to perform in the show, year after year. The original Master of Ceremonies (MC) was Sara White, who also dressed as a Navy sailor and performed as “Honeybun” from “South Pacific”. She brought down the house and also made first use of the gong.
Sara moved away and left the Chorus and I stepped in when no one else waved their hand to MC the show, which was now a regular feature of the Saturday night Retreat festivities. And we were making the steady transition from a standard talent show to encouraging all comers to do their thing, with some astonishing results.
Memorable untraditional moments have included a tenor standing on her head for over a half-hour while holding a note (she had not said she would do that without taking breaks, which she did….); jugglers and cart-wheelers; recitation of love poetry in Danish; and the audience favorite over several years, Sheldon Wolfe singing “You Make Me Feel So Young” and other love songs to his wife Nancy, a BCCO soprano. Oh, and then there are the sexy sax solos. And let me say there’s nothin’ like our basses singing “There Is Nothing Like a Dame”. And who can forget (no matter how hard they may try) the unforgettable duet on “Some Enchanted Evening”?
The Janis Joplin Tribute Group could not (and must not) be imitated. “In Praise of Women Tenors” brought tears to everyone’s eyes, and the scenes from Aida by the Supernumeraries could not be believed. Dan-Ching’s tales of her Americanization have left us delighted and amazed. How about the “Simple Soprano Song” by the Simple Sopranos?
Throughout all this (our recent average has been over 20 acts per show) a constant highlight has been the musical parodies written mostly by Mary Rogier, but by others as well.
The moral of this story is: No excuses are allowed—when someone says “come join us in our act at the Untalent Show” the answer must always be, “Of course. Did you bring enough kazoos?”
Sherry Smith, bass-on-sabbatical