Whether you’re LDS or not, if you’ve lived in Utah for awhile, you probably know a few of the lyrics to one of the following songs taught in the religion’s Primary classrooms: “Give Said the Little Stream,” “Love at Home” or “Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree.”
If you’re a member of the Salt Lake Men’s Choir, chances are you even know what to do when the popcorn pops in the last song.
“It was hilarious, because the first time we did “Popping” half the choir new the actions already,” said Dennis McCracken, the choir’s artistic director.
The gentlemen of “Utah’s Other Choir” are singing all three of these songs and several other Primary favorites for their spring concert “Brothers and Sister,” a billed “evening of sermon and song” whose “sister” is none other than radio and stage star Sister Dottie S. Dixon, a straight Mormon housewife who has been a local gay rights activist for several years now.
McCracken said he got the idea for the concert, which will be the choir’s annual fundraiser, after seeing Dixon’s “brilliant stage show.” At the time, he said, he was also thinking about the songs his family used to sing during Family Home Evening, family time several LDS families observe each Monday.
“It just seemed like it would be a perfect fit, so I just sent her a message and said, ‘Would you be willing to do this?’ and she jumped right on it,” he said.
In a phone interview from her home in Spanish Fork, Dixon agreed.
“I know several of them boys in the men’s choir and so does my son Donnie,” she said, referring to the openly gay son whose coming out spurred her into becoming a gay rights activist. “But don’t ask how he knows ‘em, I’ve stopped asking that question,” she added.
The fundraiser was initially going to be called “Family Homo Evening,” but, as Dixon said, “We worried there’d be offense,” so the evening’s title now refers to the “whole bunch of brothers and one sister” on stage. Throughout the evening, the sister in question will be introducing the pieces, and providing the night’s lesson, which will be a parable from the New Testament Book of Matthew. Choir members will act the parable out and will also pass around a “collection plate” to take donations for the fundraiser.
She’ll also be leading “Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree”— and encouraging audience participation, of course.
“We’ve got gestures lined up and I’m gonna bring a baton!” she enthused.
Although the evening revolves around several familiar LDS songs, McCracken and Dixon both stressed the program would include more secular pieces, such as “Blue Moon” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” The program will close with a very nontraditional version of “Love at Home,” with lyrics rewritten by Dixon’s friend, Tammy Hinkley, one verse of which reads:
So your family’s not ideal.
Love them anyway.
Broken hearts are known to heal
When loved anyway.
They may drive you up the wall;
You may make them want to bawl;
It’s a train wreck, overall!
Love them anyway.
Life’s a train wreck, overall;
Love it anyway.
The evening, said McCracken, will also feature a supper of “all your good Family Home Evening fare” as Sloppy Joes, funeral potatoes, root beer floats and green Jell-o. Alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages will also be provided. A number of “baskets of sin” will also be auctioned off, each one a play on foods or cultural activities Mormons are traditionally considered to disfavor. For example, one will be a wine basket that includes wine tasting lessons, another will be a coffee basket with a coffee maker, and a third will be a basket of R-rated films and a DVD player on which to watch them. Less “objectionable” items up for raffle will also include tickets to the Utah Symphony and art work.
“I want to encourage everyone to come out,” said Dixon. “It’s going to be something everyone can enjoy, you don’t have to be GLB or T. I think the straight community’s going to enjoy it as much as the GLBT community. We’re not going to poke fun at anybody but celebrate the uniqueness of everyone.”
And, of course, sing some good music.
“The angels in heaven listen when those boys sing,” she said. “Let me tell ya, the angels in heaven listen.”
McCracken added that he and the rest of the “boys” hope to work with Dixon again soon.
“We’re hoping to do a whole concert with her,” he said. “She’s amazing to work with.”
Brothers and Sister will be performed at Rowland Hall McCarthy Campus, 720 Guardsman Way, on March 13, with dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the concert — or “church” in this case — at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets are $35 and include dinner and one raffle ticket, with additional tickets available for purchase. Tickets can be purchased online at saltlakemenschoir.org or by calling Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006.