Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2017-04-26
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Singing for our lives: 25 years of GALA choruses
2008-08-27

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email


We are a gentle, angry people. And we are singing, singing for our lives.'—Holly Near

By Joan Lipkin

Miami—Imagine a place where you are encouraged to be your best, boldest GLBT or allied self. It's a place where strangers smile and ask where you are from, and where every level of musical talent and performance group is greeted with applause and frequent standing ovations because they represent commitment to music and the courage that it takes to be out and on stage.

Members of the Windy City Gay Chorus at the GALA festival. Chicago Gay Men's chorus during a rehearsal. Photos courtesy of Joan Lipkin/

There is such a place. And while the location varies, it took place this year at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts July 12-19 as gay, lesbian and mixed choruses including transgendered singers met for a festival called GALA. Sponsored by GALA Choruses, an advocacy organization for GLBT choruses, its membership includes more than 7,500 individuals from every major metropolitan area in the US as well as cities in Canada, Australia and Europe. The organization's 150 plus member choruses reach over a million people annually through concerts, community appearances, internet, radio and recorded music.

Ken Haller, a singer with St. Louis's Gateway Men's Chorus, describes GALA as Brigadoon. 'It appears every four years and then disappears into the mist. What I love is that everyone strives to do their very best and yet it doesn't feel competitive. It is one of the places I feel most alive.'

Sign-language interpreter Glenace Humphrey retired last year and moved to Kansas but returned to GALA to volunteer her talents all week.

According to General Manager Arnie Cuarenta, the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus thought it was so important to perform at GALA that a group broke off from the original Windy City Gay Chorus so that they could perform under a new name at the first national gay choral festival at Lincoln Center in 1983. This year, the chorus brought 45 members to perform in Miami.

'The fact that each year new choruses are added to GALA's roster tells me that our voices are being heard. When I used to be a singer, I would sing a concert because I enjoyed being on stage and enjoyed singing. Singing at GALA brings the singing to another level beyond entertainment,' said Cuarenta.

Such dedication doesn't surprise Timothy Seelig, artistic director in residence for GALA choruses and director emeritus of the Turtle Creek Chorale in Dallas. 'You will cry and you will laugh. Most importantly, you will come home a changed person,' he promised the estimated 5,000 delegates.

William Marsland, assistant conductor of the Windy City Gay Chorus, was one of those delegates. Windy City brought 17 singers, musical director Alan Wellman, and an accompanist Madelyn Tan.

'As this was my first GALA experience, I arrived in Miami without any expectations, but left with a renewed sense of inspiration as well as an admiration for what LGBT choruses stand for in this country. I was struck by an overwhelming feeling of acceptance and belonging as I sat in the audience watching choruses of all different sizes, membership, and levels of ability, always unable to resist joining the rousing standing ovations given to each chorus as they finished their program, Marsland said.

'The GALA festivals are an important reminder that what we do as chorus members goes beyond weekly rehearsals and concerts; we are activists as much as we are entertainers, and we are proud to represent the LGBT community in song.'

As documented in Shawn Northcutt's outstanding documentary, 'A Song of Courage,' the GLBT choral movement has been gaining momentum for more than 30 years. Anna Crusis, founded in 1975 by Catherine Roma in Philadelphia, is the oldest feminist choir in the country. In 1978, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus first performed on the steps of City Hall at a vigil the night Mayor George Moscone and openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated.

According to Roma, now director of MUSE, Cincinnati's Women's Choir who also directs UMOJA Men's Chorus at Warren Correctional Institution, 'Every movement for social change has been accompanied by song and we have now been around long enough to look back on our efforts.'

Over the past 25 years, GALA choruses have been responsible for commissioning hundreds of pieces of music by composers, arrangers and songwriters such as Ned Rorem, John Corigliano, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Holly Near, Robert Seeley, David Maddux, Eric Lane Barnes, Steve Milloy and more to tell the stories of GLBT lives.

GLBT choruses continue to offer something special to their communities. Consider Out Loud: The Colorado Springs Men's Chorus. Just two years old, they have staked out a gay space in the home of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, Amendment 2, military bases and an Air Force academy. Scary and impressive stuff.

And then there are the youth. While Seattle's Diverse Harmony was the only youth chorus at Montreal's previous GALA festival, this year's festival presented several including Mosaic Youth Chorus ( Denver ) , Dreams of Hope ( Pittsburgh ) , GLASS Youth Chorus ( Vancouver ) and Youth Pride Chorus ( New York ) . Under the leadership of Sonelius Kendrick-Smith, a member of the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and president of GALA's board of directors and GALA General Manager Robin Godfrey, the festival generously underwrote the expenses for 75 young participants and their chaperones.

Carol Sirianni, the founder of GLASS, shook with emotion as she thanked the festival. 'Some of these young people are here because they really love music and some because they also really, really need to be here,' she said.

In addition to performances by 134 groups from 28 states and four countries, GALA featured skills workshops and appearances by comedian Alec Mapa, singer songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway and artist activists Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon. And who but a gay choral festival would feature a No Talent Show, sing along with women's music pioneer Chris Williamson or morning disco cardio class.

The festival was also an opportunity to showcase new work including 'Through a Glass, Darkly' a piece by Michael Shaieb about crystal meth addiction commissioned by Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus and 'BraveSouls & Dreamers', a dramatic cantata about the consequences of war by Robert Espindola and Robert Seeley, commissioned by the Portland Men's Chorus.

A time to look back is also a time to look forward. As aspects of GLBT identity become more integrated in many communities, the question arises how today's choruses can remain relevant, continue to develop audiences and attract funding in an increasingly competitive landscape. Continued pursuit of musical excellence is paramount, including exploring a wider range of styles. Racial and ethnic diversity remains a challenge for many choruses as elsewhere in the culture. And reflecting cultural issues of sexism, female composers and songwriters still receive a disproportionately lower number of commissions than their male counterparts.

While remaining steadfast in their GLBT identities, the time is ripe for choruses to also address broader political issues. Mixed choruses—those that welcome singers of all orientations like Jane Ramseyer Miller's excellent One Voice in Minnesota—will hold increasing appeal and youth choruses are key to the future.

There is much to celebrate and still much to done. Let's roll up our sleeves and sing.

Joan Lipkin is the artistic director of That Uppity Theatre Company. She is the lyricist for 'The Sage Cycle' with music by Eric Lane Barnes, commissioned by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus. She may be reached at JoanLipkin@att.net .


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Boys Just Frockin' Around Drag Cabaret May 2 2017-04-28
BENT NIGHTS The Magnetic Fields 2017-04-26
Chicago Gay Men's Chorus to present B-Town: From Barbershop to Boybands 2017-04-26
Musical-theater fest submissions wanted 2017-04-26
Federal judge rules against church music director 2017-04-23
Aimee Mann in Chicago on April 29 2017-04-19
Michelle Shocked in town this summer 2017-04-19
'Lady X' at Mary's Attic in April-June 2017-04-19
Symphony Center to present 2017/2018 Jazz Series 2017-04-19
Christian singer Trey Pearson on coming out, Chicago 2017-04-19
Queer Harlem event at Center on April 23 2017-04-19
Entertainment: VH1 slate, Kristen Stewart, 'Stranger Things,' Morrissey 2017-04-18
World news: Chechnya, Elton John, South Korean army, Church of Scotland 2017-04-18
NUNN ON ONE The return of Joey McIntyre 2017-04-18
Michelle Shocked in town this summer 2017-04-14
IN THE LIFE Garrett Johannsen 2017-04-12
Chicago Cabaret Convention in town April 19-21 2017-04-12
SPRING MUSIC Wayne's world: Talking with The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne 2017-04-12
Entertainment: '3 Generations,' Elton John, Adore Delano, Britney Spears 2017-04-11
Musical 'Tarzan' April 12-May 14 2017-04-11
Harlem Comes to Halsted, celebration of the first queer urban subculture 2017-04-07
MUSIC Xavier Rizi Timane: 'Love Is All We Need' 2017-04-05
Three concerts planned connected to Chicago Cabaret Convention opening April 19 2017-04-03
William Wellman's silent movie WINGS at Music Box April 9 2017-04-02
Patricia Arquette, Moonlight and more rally for change at GLAAD Media Awards 2017-04-02
La Triviata, a friendly competition challenging operatic knowledge, April 20 2017-03-31
Mary Lambert to release her first EP, Bold, May 5 2017-03-31
BENT NIGHTS Wilson Phillips; Ne Hi 2017-03-29
MUSIC Girl group Expose celebrates 30 years of show biz 2017-03-29
NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC Olivia Newton-John: 'Hopelessly Devoted' to performing, fans 2017-03-29
RiseUP concert to benefit ACLU includes headlining artists of Hamilton 2017-03-29
Entertainment news: Zachary Quinto, 'Walking Dead,' Prince, Lady Gaga 2017-03-28
Big Noise 2017 announces Spring 2017 Musical, Big Fish, the Musical 2017-03-26
Hell in a Handbag Productions presents Lady X - A Musical 2017-03-23
BENT NIGHTS The Growlers; Meat Wave 2017-03-22
Party Noire events all about female Black joy 2017-03-22
'More Than a Letter,' Picnic present queer voices this spring 2017-03-22
Newton-John in Joliet on May 8 2017-03-22
Concert for America to include stars from Chicago Fire, Glee, Hamilton 2017-03-16
THEATER REVIEW 24 Words: The Equal Rights Musical 2017-03-15
 



Copyright © 2017 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 


Sponsor

Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.