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