Greetings to all of my faithful readers (I know you are out there) and welcome to any new readers of my blog. I hope you are doing well and staying healthy and positive. Hopefully what I do brightens your day a little bit. I have included three photos from the program book and three videos - one which is a highlight video and look for Melanie DeMore with a big chorus who all have their pounding sticks. The next is of the song "Our Phoenix" performed by the Festival Mixed Chorus and written by our friend Mari Elena Valverde. The third is the Orlando Gay Chorus with a speech about the Pulse Club massacre in June and how the chorus has coped with the aftermath and their opening song "You'll Never Walk Alone." Grab your hankies for this.
This week I will be writing more about my experiences at GALA Festival X which took place in a little over four years ago in Denver from July 2 to 6, 2016. Yes we were back in Denver and performing in the four theatres of the Denver Performing Arts Center and also in the Bellco Theatre in the Denver Convention Center for the Closing Concert. For those of you who have never been to the Denver Performing Arts Center let me tell you a bit about the layout. These theatres are in a galleria setting with a dome over the walkway between the theatres and parking garage.
For the opening, "A Colorado Welcome" was held in this galleria area and featured the seven Colorado choruses performing the world premiere of a Festival 2016 commission by Nathan Hall called "Mountains & Rivers" celebrating the beauty of Colorado. The members of the choruses sang this from the many levels of the galleria to the audience of delegates and visitors and residents of Denver who were there. Earlier in this afternoon of July 2 a flash mob of 500 GALA singers sang "If I Were Gay" from "Avenue Q" at the Denver Pavilions to an appreciative audience there.
Following in the tradition of Blockbuster Concerts from last Festival, the first of these was that evening in Boettcher Concert Hall. This was the big Opening Concert with guest artists Matt Alber, Holly Near and our good friend Melanie DeMore. In fact the concert began with Holly and Melanie singing Holly's song "I am Willing". Matt, Holly and Melanie joined the choruses who were part of this concert. Melanie joined with One Voice Mixed Chorus and OurSong - the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chorus to sing "Free, Free, Free" which is one of the songs that Melanie taught us for our "Rise" concert. Melanie was very busy during this week as she led a workshop on Sunday morning on "The Art of Gullah Stick Pounding" and which she shared with us the history of this beautiful art as we were in rehearsals for "Rise." She also taught us about the background of the decorations of the sticks that we would be given and use in our concert.
Another of the Blockbuster Concerts was called "Engendered Species" and featured collaborations between the SATB choruses for a wonderful evening of song and sharing and during our rehearsal times with Harmony: a Colorado Chorale, which was led by Bill Loper and who was one of the persons who auditioned for Artistic Director of LGCSF, was a time to form friendships with these singers and for all the choruses to create meaningful music. The song we sang with Harmony was "Gate Gate" with lyrics of a Sanskrit text.
Speaking of collaborating, we sang, rehearsed and hung out with our friends from across the Bay, the Oakland Gay Men's Chorus. As the last song of our set on July 4, we were joined by OGMC to perform Jack Curtis Dubowsky's "Was It the Wind?" which was commissioned by both choruses and which we gave the world premiere at the SF Pride Concert in June.
Another Blockbuster Concert that was a highlight for us was "Youth Invasion from Gay to Z" which featured the seven youth choruses who were there to perform for us. These were Bridging Voices of Portland, Diverse City Youth Chorus of Cincinnati, Diverse Harmony of Seattle, Diverse Harmony Spectrum of Seattle, GenOUT Chorus of Washington, D.C., Omaggio Youth Chorus of Phoenix, and Youth PRIDE Chorus of New York City. Another youth chorus, Dreams of Hope presented their video "Home." As at all the youth chorus performances of the past, all of us in the audience were laughing, enjoying, crying and applauding these wonderfully talented young people.
Two more highlights that we really enjoyed were the ones the Seattle Women's Chorus and Seattle Men's Chorus. The SWC's Coffee Concert was entitled "We Can Do It" which was an original musical by Eric Lane Barnes to celebrate the women during World War II, the Rosie the Riveters who changed the American workplace forever. The women of the chorus were all in costume with their variations on Rosie the Riveter. A few of the song titles were "Wendy the Welder", "Mama's Makin' Bombers!", and "It Ain't Woman's Work."
The other was the Seattle Men's Chorus set as they bid farewell to their beloved Artistic Director, Dennis Coleman, as he was retiring after 36 years (I think), of leading this wonderful chorus. Of course there were many tears as he took his leave and as the Seattle Women's Chorus came onstage to sing with the men this was a powerful statement of what an important organization that GALA Choruses are.
See you next week when I will be writing about my experiences in Munich at the Various Voices Festival of 2018. Take care of yourselves and stay healthy.
As always I send my love, Michael Lucero
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