Although the Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida is made up of tenor and baritone singers, and doesn't typically deliver over-the-top theatrics, musical director and composer Gordon Roberts says he arranges widely known numbers with quirks the audience "might not see at a straight chorus."
"We're not a show chorus," Roberts says, while noting the group strives to differ from traditional ensembles. "You don't want to just do those things that are like a church handbook. You're looking for a clever arrangement, and if there isn't a clever arrangement, you create one."
Roberts spends much of his time as musical director of GMCSF rearranging classical songs written for a chorus with a wider vocal range. His group of almost 150 men isn't trained to hit the higher notes in the register of Christmas carols.
"Christmas is finite," he says. "There's only so much Christmas music out there. … There's only so much music that's been arranged for men's choruses, and then I arrange it and I do the orchestrations, and it's a daunting task. But it's been my policy to be ahead of the pack."
For the two-hour program the chorus performs during its Christmas concert, "Mighty Sounds of Joy!" Roberts rearranged songs written for alto and soprano singers, to make them fit his tenors and basses. But he also converted music written for a full orchestra to accommodate his 11-instrument setup.
He works with brass and woodwinds to re-create what is originally played with strings, minding the composer's style to maintain a recognizable melody for his audience.
Felix Mendelssohn's "There Shall a Star" will get a reworking by the Juilliard graduate, whose contributions to the chorus have paid off in the form of recognition and demand: Next year's Christmas show is booked at the Gusman Center in Miami, where GMCSF will be the first gay chorus to sing in the Gusman's Red Curtain Series. But next March, Roberts and the Gay Men's Chorus will partner with the Symphony of the Americas for two concerts at the Broward Center and two at the Sunshine Cathedral.
Although most of the chorus' members are amateur singers, GMCSF was named one of the top six choruses at the Gala Festival, held every four years to showcase LGBT choruses in the U.S.
"It's great for the guys," Roberts says, adding, "Our goal is to make this chorus one of the best men's choruses in the country. We're the best gay men's chorus, no question about it."
Mighty Sounds of Joy!
What: The Gay Men's Chorus of South Florida's Christmas concert
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 13-15
Where: Sunshine Cathedral, 1480 SW Ninth Ave., Fort Lauderdale
Cost: $30 general seating. At presstime, tickets for the Dec. 14-15 shows were sold out.
Contact: 954-851-2299 or GayMensChorusofSouthFlorida.org