Hello again to all my faithful readers and the wonderful history nerds who are enjoying my notebooks of our chorus history that I have been bringing to rehearsals. In regard to what was talked about the upcoming Festival next year, this week I am writing about my experience at the GALA Festival 2016 which was held in Denver. This was my seventh Festival and I was blown away by all of the awesome choruses, large and small, and especially the new choruses, who I saw and heard during the five days of Festival. Some of the buzz we heard about prior to Festival were the two international coming to perform - MANO A MANO, a five man group from Havana, Cuba, who had their own set and then joined the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles during their set and many of the singers and dancers of GMCLA were in Latin American costumes with feathers galore which was quite the gay spectacle. The other chorus was the Beijing Queer Chorus and their set was much more subdued but was all the more powerful because of this subtlety. They also performed in the Engendered Species Blockbuster Concert which featured collaborations between various SATB choruses. This concert was to bring the SATB choruses together to form lasting partnerships, friendships, and to create meaningful music!
As with past Festivals, there were a number of workshops during the mornings of the Festival week. One of the workshops was led by our friend and collaborator, Melanie DeMore, and her workshop was "The Art of Gullah Stick Pounding" which we all learned about as we prepared for our concert "Rise" with Melanie. She also appeared in the Opening Concert leading a combined chorus in "Free, Free, Free" which we performed with her. As I have mentioned before, please watch the highlight video from Festival 2016 and you will see Melanie in her workshop and onstage.
Next on my list of highlights were the wonderful, amazing and talented youth choruses and they had their Blockbuster Concert called "Youth Invasion from Gay to Z". The youth choruses performing were Bridging Voices, GenOut Chorus, Diverse Harmony: Spectrum, Youth Pride Chorus, Diverse City Youth Chorus, Ommagio Youth Chorus, and Dreams of Hope. They sang a wide spectrum of songs including some written by youth composers. We in the audience all cried, laughed and applauded these youth choruses and realized these singers are the future of GALA Choruses.
Also other highlights were the Mosaico Blockbuster Concert and the Women's Voices Rising. Mosaico featured and honored the musical traditions of GALA's communities of color. "Rhythm is our heartbeat, Melody our spirit, Diversity our song!" The Beijing Queer Chorus and MANO A MANO also performed in this concert which was led off by the Mu Daiko Taiko Ensemble. The Women's Voices Rising concert featured many of the fabulous women's choruses - Sound Circle, PFLAGG Juneau Pride Chorus, Rainbow Women's Chorus, Denver and San Diego Women's Choruses, Sacramento Women's Chorus, Trans* Voices Festival Chorus and Resonance Women's Chorus of Boulder.
Now onto our performance in Denver. We sang on July 4 in the Buell Theatre and our set was "Hold On," "It's You I Like" by Fred Rogers, "Earth Song", "Time Is My Friend" by Billy Sauerland's favorite Julie Andrews, "One Person" by Jerry Herman and we were joined by the Oakland-East Bay Gay Men's Chorus performing "Was It The Wind?" which was composed for us by Jack Curtis Dubowsky with lyrics by East Bay poet Ina Coolbrith.
All in all it was a wonderful five days of amazing music, rehearsals, seeing old friends and making new ones, tears, laughter, love from the audience and the stage, everything that can happen when 6,000 queer singers come together and make music and harmony. I can't wait for the next one in Minneapolis, July 4-8, 2020.
Next week I will be writing about our fall concert "All Creatures Great and Small".
Love to you all, Michael Lucero