holiday concert at the Unitarian Universalist Church West, which was
entitled "The Tree of Life: Reflections of Family." This was billed as
another of the Chorus' "choral theatre" productions, but was very light
on the theatre portion as compared with some recent shows.
The conceit was a sort of mildly alternate history, in which there had
been an all-inclusive musical review in Milwaukee doing holiday shows
since 1934, which made this the 75th Anniversary season for the
supposedly now struggling group. The writers provided an extensive and
very plausible history, including an insert to the program book with
bios of all the major characters, and a "retrospective" board with news
clippings and posters from past concerts, which made excellent use of
the graphic talents of Emory Churness. Therefore, it's rather a pity
that due to last minute shuffling with the church the display was placed
out of any traffic area and so didn't get the attention it deserved.
Other changes evidently resulted in cutting most of the supporting plot
for the theatrical elements, which must have been confusing to anyone
attending who wasn't paying attention: there were sincere tributes to
the non-existent "founders" and other people part of the story line, and
a few more "kitschy" songs included non-ironically ("White Christmas"
medley) than one might otherwise expect from the Chorus we know.
That being said, the musical portion of the concert was very well done.
Particularly notable were Lindsey Tauber's solo on "Tree of Life," the
Chorus on hymn to Persephone "Kore Evohe," the multi-lingual "Silent
Night for All the World," Kwanzaa song "We Are the Breath of Our
Ancestors," and "Chanukah Suite," which was a very difficult piece but
flawlessly performed. Guest artist Corky Morgan (a.k.a. "Tree of Life
Players" alumnus "Donnell Udamu) showed off a very fine voice and a lot
of charisma in his featured numbers, and was a nice addition to the
While very enjoyable, I found that the very earnest framing device
caused the show to lack some edge and energy I am used to seeing for
this group. However, I must admit I was not in the best frame of mind,
my "seasonal blues" having chosen that night to kick in, and this may
have colored my judgment somewhat. The Chorus, under Kristen Weber's
direction, continues to grow and expand musically, and they are always
well worth listening to.