“The song speeds up, gets slow, then speeds up again. So now comes the fun part. Let’s put in the breathing.”
With those words, Dennis McCracken prepares another song for the Salt Lake Men’s Choir to perform at its annual holiday concert. Fondly known as Salt Lake’s “Other Choir,” the 60-member ensemble has blended voices for 39 years, with McCracken wielding a baton for 17 of them. “I love making music, and for me, a song is never done.”
McCracken holds a master’s degree in choral music and he is constantly tinkering with a song’s dynamics. “You have to balance chords, make sure vowels match, and be aware of changes in volume.”
This year’s concert is dubbed “Merry Everything” and features 12 songs ranging from Silent Night to jaunty tunes such as The Holiday Tango. “It takes hours and hours of listening to choose the right pieces for the program,” McCracken says.
For an amateur ensemble; the Choir certainly shines with professional polish. It has performed at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and the 2002 Gay Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The choir is open to anyone singing in a male voice, and its members range from trained professionals to those who enjoy crooning in the shower.
The current Choir president Mike Winget seeks to maintain inclusiveness while cultivating the Choir’s skills in choral singing. “We are nearing our 40th year and I want to continue the excellence we have experienced in educating and entertaining the Salt Lake community,” he says.
There is also a social aspect to the Choir. After weekly rehearsals members meet for dinner at the Other Place Restaurant. Friendships can go back for decades. “This is a group of guys you feel you are family with. They are great people to know and are good friends,” says bass section leader Jeremy Hunter-Davis.
Tenor Wes Brady knows about those decades. He was present at the Choir’s creation. “I am most proud of our loyal followers who have come to every concert,” he says. As for his favorite song? “It depends a lot on what is going on in your life at the time. One year I had to deploy to the Persian Gulf so I’ll Be Home for Christmas meant a lot to me.”
For Brady, the lyric “sing in exultation” best sums up the joy he has in belonging to the Salt Lake Men’s Choir. “Some people pray,” he says. “I sing.”
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