LGCSF History Corner: Some Musings on GALA Choruses Past and Present and Three Concerts I Watched This Weekend
Greetings to all of my faithful readers, I hope you are all well and getting vaccinated as you are able. Phil and I both have been fully vaccinated so we are now just waiting until the time comes when we can all be together again.
This time I want to share some musings on GALA Choruses past and present. In my archives I came across a couple of GALAgrams which were the way news from GALA was presented to all choruses in the 1990s and 2000s before social media and the Internet. In the one from Spring 1998 the cover story was about the second Singers Weekend and Leadership Conference to take place in Dallas over the Labor Day weekend. At that time when there were fewer choruses in GALA the Singers Weekends were offered for singers to come together and take part in either a mass SATB, SSAA or TTBB chorus under the direction of directors of a GALA chorus. Singers will be rehearsing, attending masterclasses and clinics and seeing old friends and making new ones.
In May/June of 2002 we received the 20th Anniversary Supplement of the GALAgram which talked about Why We Sing, Our History and Our Legacy - Twenty Years Together and Counting. What that meant then with the growth of GALA came the demand for more sophisticated education and training and strong artistic and social change leadership for GALA Choruses leadership. The GALA Choruses Board of Directors committed to the strategic questions that will strengthen choral relevance in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community and beyond.
During this time in the early 2000s there were two regional festivals which were held between the the GALA Festivals in 2000 and 2004. There was a Western Regional Festival in Seattle in May, 2002 and an Eastern Regional Festival in Cincinnati in July, 2002. At the Western Regional the first gay youth chorus in GALA, the GLASS Youth Chorus from Vancouver, B.C. performed for the first time. Also in 2002 the Gay Games were held in Sydney, Australia, on October 25 - November 9. Members of any of GALA Choruses were invited to come to be part of the Cultural Festival that was occurring at the same time and to sing in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and to sing in the big concert in the Sydney Opera House. Some members of LGCSF went to Sydney for this amazing experience and came back with great stories to share with us. Unfortunately I was not able to go to Sydney.
The third GALAgram I want to highlight is from Fall 2007 and was the Special 25th Anniversary issue. Robin Godfrey, the General Manager of GALA at that time, wrote, in part, "GALA Choruses is celebrating its 25th anniversary. What began as a network of support for GLBT choruses beginning to form in the early 1980s has evolved into an association of over 120 member choruses on three continents involving more than 7,500 singers. GALA Choruses produces the largest GLBT performing arts festival in the world with more than 5,500 delegates in attendance at Festival VIIe in Montreal in 2004 and a similar crowd expected for Festival 2008 Miami next summer". There was also a great article entitled "Mixed Choruses Play a Unique Role within GALA" which talked about the growth of LGBT choruses and the music they bring to share with the world.
Next I want to share with you that I spent my weekend watching three concerts from four GALA choruses. First up were the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus and Atlanta Women's Chorus presenting their show "Never Turning Back". It was the first time in nine years that the two choruses had performed together. It was really amazing as each song was performed in a different place either outside in Piedmont Park or around a pool where the women sang "Hold On" by Wilson Phillips and it was so much fun as they were wearing long gowns and dresses. The most moving song was "Angel Down" by Lady Gaga and sung by Panache, the men's chorus small ensemble, against a wall with George Floyd's name written many times. The most fun was a mash up of "I Will Survive/Survivor" which was filmed in a roller rink called the Golden Glide.
The next one was the Cincinnati Men's Chorus in their 30th anniversary show "String of Pearls". The pearl is the traditional gift for a 30 year anniversary so the title was totally appropriate. The men sang a great arrangement of "Fever" and "Moon River" and these were the highlights for me. Another highlight was "Take the A Train" by Billy Strayhorn and was presented with four dancers in what looked like a subway station as they went through their dance which was amazing.
The third one I watched was the South Coast Chorale from Long Beach in their 31st anniversary cabaret "How Can I Keep From Singing". Each singer introduced their song and talked about what was behind their choice to sing it and there were some funny and some very moving reasons shared. One highlight for me was the song "Mamma Said" which is by an artist who I had never heard of before, Mica Paris. I looked her up on iTunes and found she is British, a beautiful woman of color who had been in a couple of gospel groups so she has that background. Look her up and you will be amazed.
I know that the Cincinnati Men's Chorus video is still on YouTube so look for it. I am not sure if the videos of the other shows are still available but look for them. I will be looking for move concerts and cabarets throughout the spring and into summer of the amazing choruses that make up GALA Choruses. I suggest that you join the Facebook group GALA Chorus Members to see the schedule of upcoming concerts. Watching these concerts is a way that I am staying connected to these choruses until we can all be together again in person. Please let me know if you do watch these choruses and what you think about them.
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and I will be back next week with more on our history.
In love and harmony, Michael Lucero