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How Does the Salt Lake Men’s Choir Get to Carnegie Hall?

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The old joke runs, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice.”

The Salt Lake Men’s Choir has spent the last 29 years doing just that, and to Artistic Director Dennis McCracken’s delight, they have indeed received an invitation to perform at the world-famous venue in 2012 by MidAmerica Productions. Founded in 1984, the group has brought hundreds of choirs, musicians and soloists from around the world to perform at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

“We’re thrilled to death to be invited,” said McCracken, noting that only one other Utah choir — the now-defunct Cache Valley Chorale — has participated in the program.

“They have a concert season and they bring in these world-famous conductors and composers, and then they invite four or five choirs each weekend to come to New York,” explained McCracken. Each choir, he continued, performs for 30 minutes before all the invited choirs join together for a performance, one which they rehearse over three days. Past conductors of the combined performances have included Sherrill Milnes, Lukas Foss, JoAnne Falletta and John Rutter, the latter of whom McCracken hopes to work with the most.

“The one I’m really headed for is John Rutter conducting his Gloria or Requiem,” he said. “But some of the major works they’re performing in that season [2011-2012] are Brahams’ Requiem, Beethoven’s Requiem, Schubert’s Mass in C and Vivaldi’s Gloria. You never know until they get their season booked who you’ll be with.”

But practice isn’t the only thing the choir will need to appear on a New York stage. They also need money — $90,000 by McCracken’s reckoning, to fly, house and feed 50 choir members in the city for three days of rehearsal and the performance. And with money needing to be paid by November 2011, the choir has just one year to raise it.

“You’ll see the choir be more visible in the community than we have been,” said McCracken. “We’ll be doing a lot of grant-writing. We’re still in the process of planning all that [what we’ll do].”

The choir will also be doing a lot of fundraisers, especially in the spring and early summer, which will include their summer concert and fundraiser auction with Sister Dottie S. Dixon, a popular drag character who has starred in her own stage play and is played by local actor Charles Lynn Frost. The choir will only do two concerts next year, not only to spend more time raising funds but because fewer Utahns, said McCracken, have been attending concerts across the board.

“Fundraising’s really tough right now,” he added, noting that several arts groups have also been hurt by the sluggish economy. Still, McCracken said that he is hopeful that the group can see their dream come true.

“It’s really a chance to work with these enormously talented, famous directors and do some huge major works that most small choirs never attempt because of their size,” he said. “They also [perform] with a full orchestra, which we never get a chance to do at all, so that would be just great.”

For its New York performance, McCracken added, the choir would like to perform music from its 2011 concert, Hey, Look Us Over, which will be “about life, and Utah and being gay and gay-friendly in Utah.” This concert will be presented on the Thursday and Friday of Memorial Day weekend, with the fundraiser dinner and auction raffle being held Friday night.

For more information about the choir or to donate, visit saltlakemenschoir.org.

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