Hello to all my faithful readers and hopefully some new ones. This week I thought I wouldn't write about LGCSF but about Legato European Association of LGBTQ+ Choirs and the Various Voices Festival. Legato and Various Voices are similar to GALA Choruses and their Festivals. The first VV Festival was in 1985 in Cologne, Germany with 4 choirs from 4 countries. I first became aware of VV in 2008 during GALA Festival in Miami. Martin Brophy, a man who we had met previously on vacation in London, was there to promote VV in London 2009 with 59 choirs with 1,800 singers from 14 countries. Since then this was on our bucket list of things we wanted to do. I have included nine photos, a poster of Various Voices, the Festival Guide, a photo of the opening concert, then the Homonics, the Deep C Divas, BarberFellas, the Pride flag over Odeonsplatz, rehearsal and performance of "Carmina Burana."
So we were off to Munich in May, 2018 with a friend from here. We knew we would be seeing Martin again as he sings with the London Gay Men's Chorus and the European Queer Choir. Another person we were hoping to see was Simon Pearson who sings with the Pink Singers and the BarberFellas. We also would be seeing Homonics, three lads from Dublin who also sing with Gloria, the Dublin LGBTQ Choir. We were also looking forward to seeing as many choruses as we could and to meet and mingle with these singers. This VV was the fourteenth Festival for Legato and there were 93 choirs with 2,700 singers from 19 countries represented. This was held in the Gasteig Cultural Center with four performance venues hosting chorus performances in each over the five days of VV.
There was an Opening Concert which featured the parade of choirs with a representative of each with a sign with the name of the choir. Also there was the official welcome from the Mayor of Munich, music by the Festival Orchestra, which was put together for VV 2018 only, the Groove Sistaz a 17 piece female big band who brought the house down. Also the four host choruses of Munich joined to sing their welcome.
On Friday, May 11, was the big blockbuster concert - "Munchen in Space - an InterGALActic Concert Night" with Conchita Wurst (check her out on Youtube Eurovision 2014 winning performance of "Rise Like a Phoenix"), Andreas Scholl and ten choirs with their intergalactic songs. This was quite an event and you can see this on Youtube, just type the title of the concert above and be aware that it actually begins 30 minutes in.
Besides singing in the Gasteig, choruses were also performing outside in two of the main squares of Munich, the Odeonsplatz and Max-Joseph-Platz. One of the reasons I wanted to be here was that the "Carmina Burana" would be performed outside in Odeonsplatz with all the singers of VV, an orchestra and three professional singers singing the solos, a children's chorus and the citizens of Munich. We had two days of rehearsals in the main concert hall and outside on Saturday, May 12 with the performance that evening. This was thrilling for me to be surrounded by all the wonderful singers as we were accompanied by the orchestra under the evening sky of Munich. There was a big party afterward in the lobbies of the Gasteig with dancing, cocktails and food and this was a time to spend with new found friends.
There were singers from the US representing GALA Choruses, the Rock Creek Singers and Potomac Fever, two small groups from Washington DC GMC, Oursong Atlanta, and Menalive from Orange County, and a North American GALA Festival Chorus. I highly recommend attending a future Various Voices Festival so put this on your bucket list if and when we can go to Europe again. The next one is scheduled for May (I think) of 2023 in Bologna, Italy. I will let you know more as Legato updates their website for this wonderful Festival.
You can see more videos from Various Voices on Youtube, just type in various voices festival 2018 in the search bar so please let me know what you watched. I am not sure what I will write about next time but I am still going through the archives so stay tuned. Sending you all my love and stay focused on something positive for you to get you through these times. Sharing these memories with you is one of these for me.
In harmony and love, Michael Lucero
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
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
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
Greetings to all my faithful readers. I hope you are well and staying safe and I want to wish a Happy Fathers Day to any dads out there. This week I decided to write about my experiences at GALA Festival IV which was held in Denver from July 28 through July 4, 1992. This turned out to be a big and very busy week for us. We all flew together out of SFO and arrived on Saturday, June 27 and after checking into our hotel rooms and getting our Festival badges and official merchandise and ate, we attended the Denver Pride Concert that evening. We heard and enjoyed the music of our three host choruses, Denver Gay Men's Chorus, Denver Women's Chorus and Harmony: A Colorado Chorale.
The next day, Sunday morning, LGCSF along with many other choruses marched in the Denver Pride Parade and relaxed afterward in the park in front of the Colorado State Capitol. All along the parade route we received cheers and applause from the people watching and we also saw tears on many faces in gratitude that we were there. In 1992 there was a national movement designed to ban civil rights for gays and lesbians and Colorado was one of the first states to be targeted. We saw many signs to vote NO on the measure that was on the ballot in an upcoming election.
This was the second Festival that Phil and I were part of and we thought "Wow what a way to start our week with music and then marching in their Parade." For this Festival there were 64 performing choruses and representatives from 17 other choruses to make up the 3,500 delegates who were there to sing. These singers were from all over the U.S., Canada, England Germany. That Sunday evening we went to the Festival Opening Concert to hear our three host choruses again and to see all of the other choruses that had arrived that day as each chorus stood and shouted their name to thunderous applause from everyone. Then we went to bed and tried to sleep but it was not easy as we were thinking about everything that we had heard and seen and been part of.
Monday morning we were up and on to the first block of concerts starting at 9 am! We learned that each chorus would be performing twice in each of the two theatres that were open for us - Boettcher Concert Hall and the Temple Buell Theatre. So between 9 and 2:30 pm with an intermission we saw ten choruses perform. Then at 4 pm there was a Mixed Choruses Reception where we got to meet and mingle with people from the other mixed choruses. That was a lot of fun and we saw singers who we had met in Seattle. Then we had dinner and at 7 pm we went to the evening concerts featuring four choruses. Then at 9:30 there were small group performances but we went to the hotel and to bed.
Tuesday morning was the time for our onstage rehearsals at the two theatres. Also there were rehearsals for singers who were participating in the Festival Choruses - men's, women's and mixed - who would be singing the music that was commissioned by GALA in the Closing Concert on July 4. Then we had time for lunch and then it was show time for us Tuesday afternoon. In our concert block were Seattle Men's Chorus, West Coast Singers, Great Lakes Men's Chorus, LGCSF and Philadelphia Men's Chorus. We first sang in Boettcher then when we finished we dashed to Buell for our second set. In our set we sang a "Most Unusual Day Medley" - "It's a Most Unusual Day," "The Trolley Song," "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," "I Said No," and "Georgie Girl." Then Menage sang "Let the River Run" and we ended with "The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat" which was complete with the banana ballet with both sexes in native attire and the beautiful and talented Beth Yates as the Lady with the Hat. I think I mentioned in a previous blog that the militant lesbians at the time were incensed with us as they thought the bananas were too phallic. But it was lots of fun for us and we did not think it was offensive at all. That evening there were more small group performances and after we ate we relaxed and went to bed.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were easier for us since we had performed and were now able just to enjoy all the performances of the other choruses. We skipped the small group performances one night and went to one of the big country and western gay bars. Also this week the Gay Rodeo was in town so there were lots of handsome cowboys and cowgirls there to line dance. That was lots of fun.
Friday we went to the concert blocks starting at 11 am. That evening there were two special concerts. The first was "A Time for Remembrance" as we listened to some beautiful music and thought about singers and friends that we had lost to AIDS. And now for something completely different the second concert featured the Flirtations, an acappella group of five men who with their blend of humor and flirting with each other and the audience lifted our hearts and spirits.
On Saturday were the onstage Festival Choruses rehearsals as the singers in these choruses prepared for the Closing Concert which was held in Boettcher. Afterward there was the big closing party hosted by SFGMC in the Galleria of the Performing Arts Complex where we had all sung together, made new friends, laughed and cried and felt renewed as we all went back to our home cities and carried the GALA spirit on as we prepared for a new season of music. This was another eye opening week of wonderful music, dancing, love and making new friends and seeing old ones. Please enjoy the five photos I included of the Festival book and the concert programs and a picture of the chorus on the steps of parking garage across from the theatres. Next week will be all about my experiences at Festival VI in San Jose in 2000. See you then.
In harmony and love, Michael Lucero
Greetings to all of my faithful readers. This week I write about my experience at my first GALA Choruses Festival in July, 1989 in Seattle. A alto from LGCSF, Leslie Bayless, was our GALA liaison and she kept us updated as to what was expected of us as to the delegate fee of $40 and the fee for our housing, breakfast and lunch of $195. This GALA was held on the campus of the University of Washington and we all stayed in the co-ed dorms. You can guess what the decor of the dorm rooms became when 2500 singers/interior decorators took charge. Because of our group airfare, we all flew together to Seattle and returned to San Francisco together.
Yes there were 2500 singers representing 43 choruses together for a week of singing, eating, rehearsing, and having fun and getting to know each other. Phil and I met and spent time together with a tenor from the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus. At this point in GALA Choruses history there were 75 member organizations and there were representatives from 57 of them.
We arrived on Sunday, July 2, registered, got our dorm rooms and unpacked and got ready to go to the Opening Concerts which featured our host choruses, the Seattle Men's Chorus and the Seattle Women's Ensemble and their various subgroups, The Derivative Duo, the Chromatones, the Philandros Singers and the Emerald City Volunteers. The first Opening Concert was held in the afternoon followed by an Opening Reception and the Opening Concert was repeated that evening. It was quite a production and we were all blown away by what these two choruses sang and danced. One thing that I remember from that first day is that as the choruses came into Meany Theatre and were seated, one chorus would stand and shout their name to thunderous applause and then another stood and said their name and so on.
The mornings of Festival were for rehearsals of the GALA Commission pieces and music by Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky which would be performed by the mass men's, women's and mixed choruses in the Closing Concert and capped off by everyone singing a new song by Holly Near "Come Out Singing" which we sang outside of the theatre in the University's Red Square with Holly.
One of the highlights for me was rehearsing with members of the four other mixed choruses there as we learned the commissioned piece for mixed choruses we would be performing in the Closing Concert which was "Three Charms from Shakespeare" by Conrad Susa. This mass chorus was conducted by Vance George who was the director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. We all learned a lot from him as we read through the three charms - "Witches' Charm," "Dirge" and the "Fairies' Lullaby." The four other choruses singing with us were Cream City Chorus from Milwaukee, Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington DC, the River City Mixed Chorus from Omaha and the West Coast Singers from West Hollywood.
Of course we had our own rehearsal and performance of our set which was in the evening concert block on July 6. Our concert block started with the Los Angeles Women's Community Chorus, then Gay Men's Chorus of Long Beach, Boston Gay Men's Chorus, then us and the evening ended with Portland Gay Men's Chorus so we were in good company.
We sang "Everybody Says Don't" by Stephen Sondheim, then "Hand in Hand" by our own Jesse Kane, then Menage sang "The Birth of the Blues" and we finished with "Passengers of Infinity" which was written for us by Kristin Norderval which we first performed in 1986. Our plan was to show off our San Francisco class and taste and we wore our best evening dresses and tuxedos and struck a pose as the curtain opened and the audience loved us.
Throughout the week as we took in all the different concert blocks and heard and saw all the different choruses from all over the country and Canada, we were blown away by the tremendous talent of our sister and brother singers as we all came together to sing for each other. Sometimes it became a little overwhelming but since it was our first time at Festival we all wanted to do as much as possible. We in the chorus came back to San Francisco on a high as we brought the energy from GALA home and said to ourselves we can do that and that and that. All in all this first GALA Festival for me was a life changing, eye opening experience that I will never forget. I can also truly say that my experiences at the other Festivals I have attended have also been life changing in different ways and I would not have missed any of these Festivals. Here's hoping that it will be safe to sing next year and that we will be able to attend the next Festival.
The photo I attached was from Festival VIII in Miami because I did not have one from Seattle. Next week I think I will write about my experiences at Festival IV in Denver, 1992. See you then and as always sending my love to you all.
Singing in harmony, Michael Lucero
Hello to all my faithful readers and happy June and Pride month. I hope you are all well and doing everything you can to stay healthy and hopefully sane amidst all that is going on. This week in our history from 1989 I will be writing about what the chorus was doing for fundraising and outreach. Please look at the photographs I attached which show what we were involved in plus a flyer advertising auditions on July 14-26 for the fall season of the chorus - "Sing a variety of styles of music from classical to Broadway in a supportive atmosphere."
One of our first outreach and fundraising events of the year was for a show in Guerneville on Easter Sunday to benefit the Sonoma County AIDS Food Bank. There were three events that day - first performances at Fifes featuring Samm Gray and our own Scott Johnston, Morgen Aiken and the chorus plus Menage and Fiddlestix. Following that at the Willows our full ticket donors were invited to a social hour hosted by the owners of the Willows with champagne and hors d'ouevres. Next at the Woods at 6 pm an Easter buffet was served with musical entertainment by the soloists of the afternoon and the chorus.
Our next outreach event was one for our patrons to join us in attending ACT's performance of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" on May 24 at the American Conservatory Theater on Geary. Tickets for $50 were for people who wanted to become chorus patrons and attend a champagne reception.
As I have mentioned in previous History Corners, the Galleon Bar and Restaurant was again in 1989 a home for cabaret shows. On Sundays starting on May 14, our Scott Johnston hosted and performed in "Scott's Broadway" which featured soloists from San Francisco and whenever any of soloists from the chorus performed they would always put in a good word for the chorus and the upcoming Pride Concert in June.
Finally I want to talk about an outreach event that Scott Johnston and Menage were involved in. This was "Hats Off to Hospice" which celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Hospice Programs of Visiting Nurses and Hospice of San Francisco. This was held on December 8 in the Ballroom of the San Francisco Marriott Hotel. Also performing in this show was Nicholas, Glover & Wray, Weslia Whitfield, The Jesters and Jae Ross, who were all well known Bay Area cabaret and stage singers. This was a wonderful evening to honor the nurses and caregivers who provided hospice care and to hear some inspiring and fun music.
I would just like to say that what the chorus did in the eighties and nineties at fundraisers for all of the different AIDS and care organizations made proud and happy to be a part of it as we went out and lived our mission statement. Next week I will be writing a bit more of what the chorus was doing in 1989 so stay tuned.
Sending my love and harmony, Michael Lucero
Hello to all of my faithful readers. I hope you are all staying safe and trying to stay positive in your hearts and minds through these times. This week I would like to write about what our lovely and talented Leadsheet editor, Bill Ward, wrote about in the Leadsheet in 1988 to keep us informed about what was happening with the chorus, its schedule of rehearsals and concerts and what various individuals were doing. Most of what Bill wrote about during the first few weeks of 1988 was for us to welcome the new members into the chorus and to make sure they feel comfortable as we learn their names and why they came to join this merry band of musicians. He also talked up our spring retreat at Wildwood Ranch in Guerneville during Easter weekend. There will be a Spring Cotillion along with our talent show so bring your prom dresses and tuxes. Of course we will be rehearsing our music for our upcoming concerts in San Francisco and Berkeley - "A Touch of Classics" featuring music by Gabriel Faure and Wolfy Mozart. These concerts were financially and musically successful as we cleared over $1,000 and the people in Berkeley want us back next spring for another concert.
Our fabulous jazz octet, Menage, was nominated for a Cabaret Gold Award and the Awards show will be on April 25 at the Venetian Room. Unfortunately they did not win an award, but they were busy in March as they performed at the Castro Lions Club, then at a fundraiser for the Names Project and the Lyon-Martin Clinic at the Green Room in the War Memorial Building and a show at Big Mama's in beautiful downtown Hayward. Our own Scott Johnston is hosting Open Mike nights on Mondays at the Galleon so if you would like your time in the spotlight just show up there and show the world what you have to offer.
We had a chorus garage sale and I was in charge of this along with several volunteers as Bill asked for the chorus to clean out their closets and donate their stuff. Next up for us was the Gay Pride Concert which will be produced by our own Jesse Kane. She did a fabulous job for us at last year's Pride Concert so this should go smoothly as well. As we were rehearsing our music for Pride, we kept busy in May, with staff meetings, Fiddlestix performing in Walnut Creek for the Contra Costa AIDS Task Force fundraiser, Menage at the Santa Rosa Lions Club, the chorus at Collingwood Recreation Center for the AIDS Bike-A-Thon, then Fiddlestix, Menage and Pat Parr at Amelia's for the Arcadia Bodybuilding Physique then Fiddlestix and Menage performing for the East Bay PWAs. Bill put in a plug reminding us to thank Pat for all the time he puts into directing the chorus, Menage and Fiddlestix plus all the meetings and other performances he does.
In June besides our performing in the Pride Concert, we also rode on a cable car in the Pride Parade and there was a call for four monitors for our group. Sell, sell, sell those concert tickets!! There was a call out to the chorus to help paint sets for the concert. We also staffed a booth at Civic Center after the the arade. Also on June 25 the chorus were handling the food concessions for the Arcadia Bodybuilding Association event at Mission High. Bill was also putting in information for the GALA Festival coming up in Seattle in 1989 and asking for ideas for fundraising for this trip to have the entire chorus be there.
From our updated 1988 schedule, on July 7 rehearsals for our Movies concert started and the 10th was the cutoff for auditions for new members. We were also learning music for the "In Memory of Friends" concert. For the Movies concert, there was a call for people to join the production committee. Phil and I were part of this and I remember a fun day we had making papier mache bananas for use in our performance of "The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat" for this concert. In August two of our rehearsals will be for the staging of the Movies concert with our stage director, Roger Scroggs. September 30 was our "LGCSF Goes to the Movies" concert which I remember was so much fun and all of our hard work paid off.
On October 8 was an all day rehearsal for "In Memory of Friends" with a barbecue lunch provided. October 9 was show time. On November 7 Menage performing a fundraiser at the Plush Room to raise funds for GALA III Festival. In November we had nominations and election of the Board of Directors. The chorus became incorporated. Menage and Fiddlestix were both busy in November and December performing in various venues and the chorus sang with the SFGMC in their Christmas Concerts. Yes 1988 was a busy and exciting year for the chorus and I enjoyed it all because we were all young and healthy and having a good time and making wonderful music and sharing our gifts with our audiences. Next week I will start my in depth look at the chorus in 1989. See you then and stay healthy and positive. I send my love to all of you.
Always in harmony, Michael Lucero