As temperatures plummet across Western Canada, queer NYC artist and filmmaker Seth Michael Donsky is heading to Calgary to take part in the premiere of A Christmas Carol with his collaborators the Calgary Men’s Chorus. The gay men’s chorus is under the direction of Jean-Louis Bleau, who has been expanding the repertoire of the 15-year-old choir and is keen on artistic exchange.
“Collaboration has been my thrust for the chorus over the past couple of years, and the results have really challenged us on how we approach our art; it has been exhilarating,” says Bleau. “This year, Seth approached us to do an adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which he had been working on. It will combine the lost art of storytelling with interspersed musical pieces — an interesting departure from the typical Christmas concert.”
Donsky, no stranger to Dickens, transformed Oliver Twist into a contemporary queer-themed feature film, Twisted, which debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1997. In this adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Donsky will be the narrator.
“Doing this version of A Christmas Carol freed us up from conventional Christmas music selections,” explains Bleue. “I think people will be surprised at some of our selections. For example, we will be singing the Dies Irae from Mozart’s Requiem Mass — a very powerful piece.”
The Calgary Men’s Chorus has been on the forefront of innovation amongst queer choirs, and the group performs internationally, most recently in Miami at the GALA choruses 2008 festival. Bleau believes that the role of the chorus in the community is not only to foster a passion for music and singing but also to increase tolerance and celebrate achievements.
“I think that this production is particularly important because of Dickens’ messages about tolerance and a better world,” he says. “Despite the [Canadian] gay community’s recent success in the fight for same-sex marriage, we need to start looking at our own intolerances and how we can become more inclusive.”
He hopes that this production of A Christmas Carol will be a heart-warming opportunity for audience introspection. As to the toast of Christmas Future, Donsky and Bleau hope to have the production picked up by other queer choirs next year in their annual programming after its much anticipated Calgary debut.