ASL at the Seattle Men’s Chorus Christmas show

Last night Chris and I attended Cool Yule, the Seattle Men’s Chorus Christmas production. Before the show started Chris and I were talking about our favorite and least favorite Christmas songs. Turns out his least-favorite Christmas song is Silent Night. I don’t have any particular dislike of the song, but from an ASL perspective it’s pretty darn boring.

All shows are ASL interpreted and what I think is a first, the interpreter even gets billing and a blurb in the program (which actually is a bit unfortunate as he may be a great interpreter, but a terrible writer). Overall I was really impressed with the interpreting, expressive and fun to watch. As always, I would have done a few things differently but that’s pretty much par for the course with any interpreter watching another.

During the second half of Cool Yule, the Chorus performed Silent Night with an oboe. Beautiful but slow. Moreover slow, repetitive songs are really quite boring in ASL and this one is no different. Even worse, the interpreter had really simplified a lot of the signs making it even more boring to watch. And then it all became clear. For after the oboe accompaniment, the Chorus stopped singing and started signing with the interpreter! It was probably the most beautiful rendition with the only sounds in the entire auditorium was the quiet whisper of coat sleeves rubbing together as the Chorus signed. The interpretation wasn’t simplified by lack of imagination, but rather by necessity: the need to teach all the Chorus members the signs and that mass interpreting looks better with simpler signs.

The show was great, at times a smidge too campy for my tastes, but overall very fun.

Update: My good friend had asked why hearing-impaired people would go to a concert beyond supporting a friend or loved one. That’s a good question. IMHO, there are a couple of good reasons: 1) hard-of-hearing people may still have limited hearing and be able to make out the music, but not the words, and hence would be watching an interpreter 2) even completely deaf people enjoy the visual production and can feel the music in the lower range.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

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