As Artistic Director Dr. Daniel Arredondo II said, the Austin Gay Men’s Chorus performance this past weekend was not strictly a Christmas concert. Like most such choruses across the country, they have opted to be more inclusive of other cultures around the world.

This was made evident from the very first musical offering, Tshosholoza, a traditional South African song of freedom sung by ancient miners in the diamond and gold pits. Used to celebrate the releasee from prison of Nelson Mandela, it became the unofficial anthem of the country.

It’s an invigorating tune, and it was the first of several showcases for the dance acting members of the chorus. They had their own separate stage on the left to give them maximum visibility, and they sometimes stole the show by their wildcap antics and startling outfits ranging from tutus to white religious garb (in the lead photo). The dance cast ranged from 5 to 8 guys.

There were 10 selections in each half of the show, although not performed in the order printed in the programme. Interspersed between some tunes were brief readings, including an extract from the 1952 poem When Giving is All I Have by Alberto Rios. Each such reading set the appropriate tone, and was a most welcome element of the show.

Tunes performed included such standards as Sleigh Ride and Joy to the World (both done as a piano solo), Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (an intimate version done just the 10 guys who comprise ‘Take Note’), and Feliz Navidad.

New to most people would be Hot Latke by Linda Kartoz-Doochin, who Arredondo met by happenstance one day. She told him that she was a composer but, as he said to the audience at First Baptist Church in downtown Austin, most people who say that to a musical pro such as himself are duds. Upon listening to her music, Arredondo has become a big supporter, so the Austin audience was treated to two of her delightful creations: Hot Latke and Miracle of Hannukah.

A very unlikely but welcome entry was Pasko Na Sinto Ko. A popular song from the Philippines, written in the 1980s. A Christmas song of longing and loss but also of honesty, vulnerability and hope. “What’s going to happen to the Christmas I dedicate to you?” if you disappear, the lyrics plaintively ask. Las Mananitas, a song from Mexico, was performed in Spanish; it was paired with the Spanish-language version of Away in a Manger. And my favourite, Auld Lang Syne (from my land of Scotland) was delivered just right. It’s normally played at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, but since it is the last Chorus concert of year, it was appropriate.

The Chorus members have been rehearsing since August, and this dedication was apparent in the production values. The dancers were a delight, and seemed to get even better as the concert progressed. They really got into the swing of things in those religious garbs! The chair of costuming, Jorge Barra, and his team did a fab job.  

Overall, I thought this concert was more creative than ever before, and it showed true camaraderie among the guys. The concert was well attended by a wide range of people, not just the gay community. My only minor quibble is with the programme notes: several songs featured soloists. I thought their names should appear alongside the selections so we know who to pick as our hottie favourites!

Photos by C. Cunningham

For more on the music of Linda Kartoz-Doochin, visit her website:

By Dr. Cliff Cunningham

Dr. Cliff Cunningham is a planetary scientist, the acknowledged expert on the 19th century study of asteroids. He is a Research Fellow at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. He serves as Editor of the History & Cultural Astronomy book series published by Springer; and Associate Editor of the Journal of Astronomical History & Heritage. Asteroid 4276 in space was named in his honour by the International Astronomical Union based in the recommendation of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Dr. Cunningham has written or edited 15 books. His PhD is in the History of Astronomy, and he also holds a BA in Classical Studies.