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