Hello and greetings to all of my faithful readers and to any of you who may be new to my blog. This I will be writing about our experiences at the GALA Choruses Festival IX which was held in Denver from July 7 to 11, 2012. There were changes to this Festival. It was shortened from 7 days to 5 days, it featured the introduction of Morning Coffee Concerts and Evening Blockbuster Concerts. Festival was held at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, which has three major concert halls, the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Buell Theatre, Boettcher Concert Hall and two smaller ones, the Stage Theatre and the Chambers Grant Salon where the Late Night Ensembles performances took place.
There were 6,000 singers representing 155 choruses and small ensembles and 5 youth choruses at this Festival and we took over downtown Denver. At the opening concert on Saturday, July 7, we were treated to the music of our Colorado choruses, the Denver Gay Men's Chorus, Denver Women's Chorus, Harmony: a Colorado Chorale, Out Loud: the Colorado Springs Men's Chorus, Sine Nomine, Resonance Women's Chorus and Sound Circle and friends. This was held in Boettcher which is a theatre in the round. The concert began and ended with Zimbabwean marimba music performed by The Low Flying Knobs. In between were the performances by all of the Colorado choruses in a great mix of music. This concert was performed twice, first at 7:30 pm and again at 9:00 pm in order for all delegates to have an opportunity to attend. Also on this night was the Ensemble Festival featuring the small groups of several choruses. These took place in the Ellie and the Stage Theatre.
At this Festival LGCSF was joined by the Chorus of Lick-Wilmerding High School of San Francisco. Our artistic director, William Sauerland, was also the choral teacher at Lick. Sunday morning, July 8, we had our tech rehearsal onstage at the Ellie to prepare for us for our performance on Monday, July 9. We opened the afternoon block at 12:30 pm and performed the GALA Premiere of "Harvey Milk: A Cantata" composed for us by Jack Curtis Dubowsky with words by Harvey Milk from his letters and speeches from his archives and the Scott Smith Collection. We also performed June Bonacich's "If Gays Ruled the World." We were the first chorus to have a high school perform with a queer chorus at Festival. As with all Festival performances we received a standing ovation but I like to think there was a little extra for the high school kids who sang with us. It was certainly a highlight in my chorus life. Then we went on to listen to as many other choruses as we could fit into the rest of our time in Denver.
Let me talk about the morning Coffee Concerts which were new at this Festival. These were one hour concerts performed by choruses who had performed them during the past twelve months leading to Festival. These were all fully costumed and choreographed shows and they ranged from Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, DC performing "Alexander's House" to "When I Knew" by Heartland Men's Chorus. Also the Portland Gay Men's Chorus presented "The Young Person's Guide to the Gay Men's Chorus" and MUSE - Cincinnati Women's Choir presented ""#Tweet2Roar: MUSE Celebrates 29." One of the Coffee Concerts that we really enjoyed was "Von Trapped" by Men Alive with their take on "The Sound of Music" and this was very gay.
Also new were the evening Blockbuster Concerts which started with "Songs of the Soul" which was a sacred concert exploring the connections between spirituality, sexuality, and musical expression. Then came "Our Legacy = Our Song" which celebrated GALA's LGBT history through stories, photos, narration and music commissioned by our choruses. There were Men's Chorus, Women's Chorus and Mixed Chorus Singin' in the Round concerts, a Classical Masterworks Sing-Along and the Big Gay Sing in which everyone, those onstage and those in the audience sang along to the music and the lyrics were shown on the big screen so it was like the biggest karaoke ever. So gay and so fun. And then there was the fabulous Youth Invasion concert featuring the five youth choruses who were there - Diverse Harmony, Dreams of Hope, Mosaic Youth Chorus, PerformOUTKC and the Youth Pride Chorus. We in the audience laughed, cried, cheered, and gave standing ovations to each song and each chorus. We were so proud of these kids and we all realized these wonderful young singers are the future of GALA.
And then we came to the Closing Festivities on the evening of Wednesday, July 11 which was a celebration of music, stories, photos and video to wrap up Festival 2012. The program also included the launch of a virtual choral project called "Global Queer Quire" which featured virtual performances by LGBT choruses from across the world. We all sang "Born This Way" along with the Global Queer Quire and that was a special moment of feeling connected to all of the wonderful, talented singers that make up our GALA Choruses world. And then it was on to the closing party "Red Hot" presented by SFGMC, Heartland Men's Chorus, GMCW, Turtle Creek Chorale, Anna Crusis, Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus, NYCGMC and Denver Gay Men's Chorus. This was a great way to end our time together and party and dance with old friends and the new ones we made during our time in Denver. If anyone who was there has any photos you can share with us please send them to email@example.com.
Once again GALA lived up to its mission to empower LGBT choruses as we change our world through song. I love the four values that were included in the program book - We are Catalysts, We are Harmonizers, We are Listeners and We are Leaders. I know we will sing together sometime in the future and it will be a magical and spiritual event that will change our lives. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Sending you all my love.
In harmony always, Michael Lucero
Greetings to all of my faithful readers and to any new ones to this blog. I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy and sane. This week I am writing about our experiences at GALA Festival VIII which took place the week of July 12-19, 2008 in Miami. Just where we wanted to be - Miami in July - heat and humidity. Oh well there we were although we arrived on July 13 so we missed the Opening Ceremonies. We got settled in our hotel room and got our registration package and then got ready to hear some wonderful music and seeing some new choruses and some of the ones we had seen before.
This Festival marked the 25th Anniversary of GALA Choruses so there were events around this as well. There was a 25th Anniversary DVD called "A Song of Courage", which is a history of our search for freedom through the GALA movement and the GALA Choruses Songbook, "Songs of Courage", which celebrates 25 years of life-changing music. There was a premiere showing of the video for all of us on Friday morning. These were for sale in the GALA Festival store as well as t-shirts, sweat shirts, CDs and DVDs of various choruses and other GALA related merchandise.
There were 5,000 singers for this Festival and we performed at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in the two beautiful concert halls there - the Ziff Ballet Opera House, and the Knight Concert Hall. This Festival there was a concert block dedicated to Youth Choruses. There were six and they were Mosaic Youth Chorus, GLAM, Dreams of Hope, Youth Pride Concert, Diverse Harmony and GLASS Youth Chorus. These youth choruses performed twice on Thursday, July 17 and all the adults were in the audience to see our future as we wept, laughed, applauded and celebrated these wonderful talented kids.
On Wednesday afternoon at the 25th Anniversary Celebration, the Festival Choruses performed as well as music from special guests Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon. The special event for Wednesday evening was a trip to Jungle Island where we were treated to a picnic meal, the No Talent Show hosted by our own Stephanie Smith and Carolyn Eidson as Fifi and Fannie, music by Cris Williamson and time just to hang out with all of the singers there.
As I looked through the program book at the workshops that were offered, I saw two that were just for accompanists - a meet and greet so all accompanists could meet their compatriots of the keyboard, and one called "Accompany Me: a Workshop for Piana Playas" which was participatory with topics such as "Sight Reading is Fun!", "Follow the Bouncing Ball," etc.
LGCSF, under the direction of Stephanie Lynne Smith, performed on Friday, July 18 at 3:30 pm in the Ziff Ballet Opera House. Our included two songs from June Bonacich's "Group Therapy", "Neighbors' Chorus" by Jacques Offenbach, the notorious "Magic Snow" by Jack C. Dubowsky, a piece in Mandarin "Diu Diu Deng," "Ray's Rockhouse" by Ray Charles, and we finished with "Bonse Aba", a traditional Zambian song. We were the fourth chorus in our concert block. First was the First Coast Chorus, then Denver Women's Chorus, Syracuse Gay and Lesbian Chorus, us and we were followed by the Portland Gay Men's Chorus. Please enjoy the photos attached. They are of us in the Mixed Chorus Festival Chorus rehearsal, one of the Florida choruses in their turquoise drag, LGCSF backstage waiting to go on, and a couple of pictures from the closing party hosted by SFGMC and one of me with Robin Godfrey, who is now the Executive Director of GALA Choruses. We all had a good time listening to all the glorious, wonderful, moving music that we all shared with each other as well as seeing old friends and making new ones. This was our fifth Festival and we can't wait for the next one, which I will be writing about next week - Festival VIII, Denver, July 2012. See you all then. Take care of yourselves and stay safe.
In harmony and love, Michael Lucero
LGCSF History Corner: GALA Festival VII, Montreal, 2004 - Our Voices Win Freedom
Greetings to my faithful readers and welcome to any new ones. I hope that you all are well and staying safe and healthy and sane through these trying times. This week I am writing about my experience at GALA Festival VII which was held in Montreal, Quebec in July of 2004. This was the first Festival to be held outside of the US and we all were welcomed by the citizens of Montreal as we gathered to sing for each other, to see old friends and to make new ones. There were 6,000 delegates, families, and friends representing 175 choruses with 171 choruses performing for each other over the seven days we were there.
On our way to Montreal, we changed planes in Cleveland. Phil, Stephanie, our director and I missed our connecting flight so we spent the night in Cleveland. We were put up at the Hilton and the three of us had a nice dinner and several Cosmos so it wasn't too bad. It was a good thing that we left San Francisco a day early so we were able to arrive at our hotel, and register and go to the Opening Celebration in the Place des Arts on July 17. We were entertained by our emcee, Kate Clinton, our host choruses and we all went through the introduction of the attending choruses with applause for every one of them.
The beautiful Place des Arts houses two great theaters, the Theatre Maisonneuve and the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Sunday, July 18, we rehearsed in the morning at the apartment that Stephanie and Kathleen McGuire had rented and we performed in the first block of concerts that afternoon. We sang three pieces written by Jack Dubowsky, our composer in residence at that time, a four part cantata composed by bass Richard Link entitled "Woven Together" and ended with "We Shall Overcome" which was arranged by Kathleen McGuire for us. After our performance we were free to enjoy all the other choruses. Some of our favorites were Ottawa Gay Men's Chorus (we met a couple of singers from this chorus while we were eating lunch), the London Gay Men's Chorus, Gloria from Dublin, the Pink Singers from London, the New Wave Singers from Baltimore, New York City Gay Men's Chorus and their sendup of music from "Hairspray," and our friends from Hamburg, Schola Cantorosa. We also particularly enjoyed Ensemble Vocal Extravaganza from Montreal who hosted a party for all the mixed choruses so it was a great time for us to mingle with singers from the mixed choruses.
There were also Festival choruses - men's, women's, mixed and for the first time a Transgender/Gender Queer Festival Choir who all performed in a concert block on Saturday, July 24. The commissioned pieces that had been written for these choirs were all wonderful and moving. Two other special events were an evening with Lily Tomlin on Wednesday, July 21 and the World's Greatest No Talent Show on Friday afternoon. Of course San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus was fabulous and they also hosted the closing party in the Sheraton Hotel ballroom.
Of course we took time to explore the Gay Village of Montreal and spent a bit of time in the bars and restaurants there as we partied and shopped during the week with our new found friends and our old ones as we exchanged phone numbers and addresses and promised to keep in touch. Please enjoy the photos I have attached here, the Program cover and the page with our set, pictures of Deb and Joan as they arrived, the group going for our tech rehearsal, onstage and prior to our group photo, the guys from Ottawa and London Gay Men's Chorus and Stephanie dancing at the closing party.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of our week in Montreal at Festival. It was another wonderful and moving time as we gathered together with all of the talented singers in our choruses from all around the world. Next week I will be writing about our time in Miami in 2008 at GALA Festival VIII. Take care of yourselves and each other and stay healthy. I send my love to all of you.
Always in harmony, Michael Lucero
Greetings to all of my faithful readers and welcome if there are any new ones. I hope you all had a safe and sane 4th of July and stayed home and watched the fireworks shows on TV. We watched the CNN show with Don Lemon and Dana Bash and a great array of musical guests.
This week I am writing about my experiences at the GALA Festival VI, which was held in San Jose from July 22-30, 2000. This was our third Festival and we were all excited to be participating in this wonderful week of music and seeing old friends and making new ones. Since this Festival was so close, Phil and I volunteered to help out at Festival and there were several workshops prior to Festival that we attended to learn about what we would be doing to help welcome all the singers who would be coming to San Jose and to answer any questions that these delegates might have. It was a wonderful way for us to be more involved in Festival and to help out GALA.
At this point, there were more than 190 choruses in GALA composed of over 10,000 singers on 4 continents. At this Festival, there were 140 performing groups and more than 5,000 singers which made this the largest gay and lesbian choral event in history up to that point. The opening and closing ceremonies took place in the San Jose Convention Center. At the opening we all sang the Festival anthem "A Chorus of Lovers and Friends" which was composed for GALA by David Sereda. There was the procession of choruses and entertainment by Harvey Fierstein and Friends. The keynote address was given by Kate Clinton.
At the closing ceremonies among all the speeches, remembrances and reflections of Festival 2000, we were entertained by Holly Near and Bruce Villanch. Of course we all sang "A Chorus of Lovers and Friends" again and ended singing "One Voice." The daily concert blocks took place in the Civic Auditorium across the street from the Convention Center and in the Center for Performing Arts one block away.
There were rehearsals for the Festival choruses who would be performing the music commissioned for GALA for SATB, SSAA, and TTBB choruses. The Festival choruses performed on Wednesday, July 26. One of the pieces for the SATB chorus, "With One Voice," became an anthem for LGCSF as we sang it at the Pre-GALA concert in July, "Across the Ponds," just before Festival. Our guests were Schola Cantorosa, Gay Men's Chorus of Hamburg, Germany and VOICES: Lesbian Choral Ensemble. The three choruses performed the music we would sing at Festival. We hosted them from Schola and were able to spend time with them and show them around San Francisco for a day. They are a show chorus so their set featured fabulous costumes, dancing and acting so they were a hit with our audience and for the audience at GALA.
There was another chorus from Germany, a men's chorus from Paris, several choruses from Canada, and the Pink Singers and London Gay Men's Chorus from London and the Deep C Divas from Leeds, England and Gloria from Dublin. We had a chance to meet some of the singers from these choruses and are still in touch with a few of them today. The buzz at GALA was that everyone had to hear Lavender Light Gospel Choir from New York. They performed twice so that most people were able to hear their glorious, uplifting music and we all agreed that we had been transported to church. LGCSF also performed twice, once on Friday, July 28 and the next day, so that was fun and a little hectic for us.
Among other special concerts there was "Celebrating Women Concert" with Holly Near as the emcee. This concert featured the women's choruses and one of the highlights was MUSE Cincinnati Women's Choir and Deep C Divas singing with Holly Near on two of Holly's songs "A Thousand Grandmothers" and "Uh Huh." There were two other guests who performed - Linda Tillery in the first half and Rhiannon in the second half. There was also a fun evening entitled "World's Greatest No-Talent Show" which showcased various soloists and small groups from some of the choruses. Who knew how many talents there were in our GALA world? One last thing I want to say is that the motto for this Festival "Touching Hearts, Changing Minds" was there in abundance through the voices and songs of everyone who was there onstage and in the audience as we all cheered on and were cheered by our peers. This is what Festival has always meant for me and being part of LGCSF as we celebrated with our sisters and brothers and went back to our hometowns energized and ready to share this energy with all of our audiences and communities.
Next week I will be writing about my experience at Festival VII in Montreal, Quebec. Take care of yourselves and remember we will get through these times and sing again.
With harmony and love, Michael Lucero