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Fratelli Men’s Chorus Unifies Voices in the Love of Harmony

Newly formed Santa Barbara County ensemble 'of gay men and their allies' will hold its second show of the year in December

Fratelli vocalists, from left, are Ben-oni Cortes, Rod Lathim, Waldo, Bruce Daniels, Tim Cardy, Dan Boulos, Kyle Richards, Zack Thomas Wilde, Bill Skeen, Joe Lorenzo, Marco Antonio Silva, Brian Miller and Gary Mosel. Not shown are Seth Taylor, Peter Wright, Howard Cohen and Mike Harnett, who joined later, and accompanists Ray Stokes and John Scoville.
Fratelli vocalists, from left, are Ben-oni Cortes, Rod Lathim, Waldo, Bruce Daniels, Tim Cardy, Dan Boulos, Kyle Richards, Zack Thomas Wilde, Bill Skeen, Joe Lorenzo, Marco Antonio Silva, Brian Miller and Gary Mosel. Not shown are Seth Taylor, Peter Wright, Howard Cohen and Mike Harnett, who joined later, and accompanists Ray Stokes and John Scoville. (Fratelli Men’s Chorus photo)

Sometimes, the mightiest chorus begins with just one voice.

Enter Zack Thomas Wilde, a man with a lifelong passion for music, theater and song. Wilde, who spent his youth and university years in Santa Barbara, returned here early in 2015 from San Francisco to care for his elderly mother.

After years working with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, as well as directing, acting and supervising choralography with 42nd Street Moon, a musical revival house at the city’s Eureka Theatre, Wilde was prepared — and eager — to launch a men’s choral group in Santa Barbara.

He reconnected via Facebook with childhood friend Rod Lathim, founder of Access Theatre and long a force in music, literature and theater on the South Coast and in Southern California. With their mutual friend Gary Clark, Wilde and Lathim combined their enthusiasm and began to explore the possibility of a chorus of male voices.

“Over Thanksgiving last year, we held a social gathering to gauge interest, and people were surprisingly very interested,” Wilde said.

During the holiday season, Wilde continued to gather new members, and on Jan. 4, the chorus had its first rehearsal.

“Having worked in the nonprofit sector of Santa Barbara most of my life, I was familiar with organizing and structure and helped Zack secure the rehearsal/performance space at Trinity Episcopal Church, and have been regularly 'on call' for Zack to help with a variety of questions and offer guidance,” Lathim said in an email.

Armed with enthusiasm, Facebook and a handful of vocalists, Wilde created the Fratelli Men’s Chorus. He chose the name “Fratelli” — Italian for “brethren” or “brothers” — for “a feeling of brotherhood” and said he opted to use “men’s” over “gay” to be more accommodating. He’s in the process of securing nonprofit status for Fratelli.

On its Facebook page is Fratelli’s description: “Our chorus of gay men and their allies hopes to create extraordinary musical experiences that inspire compassion, community, pride and activism.”

The current chorus comprises 16 men who rehearse every Monday at Trinity, and Wilde hopes to “round out the group” at 20. He encourages singers with a musical background to participate in two upcoming auditions, Sept. 5 and Sept. 12.

Fratelli’s second show of the year will be in December, Wilde said, and will feature “mostly holiday songs and a couple of sing-a-longs for audience members.”

Zack Thomas Wilde, artistic director of the Fratelli Men’s Chorus, relocated from San Francisco last year and brings years of choralography, directing and acting experience to the group.
Zack Thomas Wilde, artistic director of the Fratelli Men’s Chorus, relocated from San Francisco last year and brings years of choralography, directing and acting experience to the group. (Laurie Jervis / Noozhawk photo)

Among the numbers Fratelli performed during its debut concert June 27 at Trinity Episcopal Church were “Hello” from The Book of Mormon, “Oh, Shenandoah” with Lathim soloing, “You Walk with Me” from The Full Monty with Dan Boulos and Howard Cohen soloing; and an original, composed and performed by pianist Ray Stokes, “Orlando Hymn,” honoring the 49 who died in the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The men’s voices rose and fell in melodious harmony, evoking both tears and thunderous applause from the audience that nearly filled every pew.

The current chorus members, by their singing voices, are Boulos, Lathim and Cohen, first tenor; Tim Cardy, Ben-Oni Cortes, Bruce Daniels and Marco Silva, second tenor; Brian Miller, Gary Mosel, Mike Harnett, Peter Wright and Waldo, baritone; and Joe Lorenzen, Kyle Richards, Bill Skeen and Seth Taylor, bass.

“I really enjoyed the experience of singing with a group in four-part harmony (and having some solos),” Lathim wrote. “Having sung under Phyllis Zimmerman in Canticle and at Santa Barbara High School for three years, I missed that experience of making music together with a group of people.

“In these trying times in our world, it feels so good to harmonize with other human beings. It lifts the spirit and feeds the soul.”

Cardy has sung “professionally on and off from age 6 until about age 44,” and he echoed Lathim: “(Fratelli offers) an amazing sense of camaraderie and community. The other groups I’ve sung with bring a wonderful sense of family — I have co-singers that for years I’ve remained close friends. I think that most of us love coming together and working toward the goal of making music and making something that affects the audience on a very deep, emotional level.”

Cardy said he performed with the gay men’s choruses of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the first mixed gay and lesbian chorus, the Stonewall Chorale in New York City. Wilde also sang with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, and lived and performed in Italy for a number of years, he said.

Among the productions in which Wilde acted with 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco were “Little Me,” “Sugar,” “Oh, Kay” and “Jubilee.” Among those he directed or choreographed are “The New Yorkers,” “Du Barry was a Lady,” “Pal Joey” and “Strike up The Band.”

For more information about Fratelli, click here or email Wilde at [email protected].

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected].

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