MINNEAPOLIS – The GALA Festival is over and all the choristers (estimated attendance was 6,000) have gone home feeling a warm and happy glow. Five days of singing and partying have left me feeling tired, but it’s a good tired. It’s also nice to be back to an elevation where I can breathe normally. While Denver is a mile-high city, Minneapolis is doing just fine here at 830 feet above mean sea level.
Back to the real world. Damn.
I can’t imagine a better venue for this year’s festival. The Denver Performing Arts Complex is an architectural wonder, three grand concert halls and three theatres all pulled together with a covered breezeway in between, which meant it was always a nice day, even during a torrential rain that moved through Friday night and Saturday morning. It was the single largest audience I have ever performed in front of: 2,600 people packed into the Ellie Caulkins Opera House to watch the GALA premiere of our new work, Out of My Range, with music and lyrics by Michael Shaieb (Through A Glass, Darkly) and book by Brent Lord and Michael Shaieb. It’s a tale of the ages – really, it’s a tale about age. All of the members of the Chorus wear shirts identifying the decade of their age (20, 30, 40, 50, 60). I guess it was too hard to fit “quadregenarian” and “quinquaternarian” on a shirt. A little inside dirt is that two of us were wearing inaccurate shirts. One of our members is 19, so we grouped him in with the 20-somethings, and the one 70-year-old wore a “60” since the group is actually sixty and up.
Out of My Range was a big hit at GALA. We performed on the last morning of the festival, and for the rest of the day we were deluged with an overwhelming barrage of compliments – mostly me, as I kept my costume shirt on for the rest of the day. Several choruses have expressed an interest in performing the work. The same thing happened when we brought Through A Glass, Darkly to GALA in 2008.
I got to see a lot of other choruses perform their work too. It was really nice to see the New Orleans Gay Men’s Chorus, which is a small chorus compared to giants like San Francisco, Denver and the Twin Cities … but then, to quote the great Michael Shaieb, “your voice is the one place size doesn’t matter.”
One of the most interesting things to see at the festival is how other Choruses perform the same works we have performed, including some of the works we commissioned. Heartland Men’s Chorus (Kansas City) opened their anti-bullying show, When I Knew, with “If You Only Knew” from Through A Glass, Darkly; San Diego performed the opening medley from Let’s Hear It For The Boys as well as I Want More Life which we commissioned from Michael Shaieb, with text from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Our own oboist, Steve Humerickhouse, provided the oboe solo for them on that one.
The best performance I saw (not counting our set, which I technically didn’t see) was San Francisco, who premiered a new work called “Testimonial” which speaks out about bullying and was penned by Steven Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked) who was also in attendance for the performance. I had to watch them from behind, though. The show was so packed, they opened the seats behind the stage.
I got a boatload of pictures of the event, most of which turned out. Photographing a stage performance was tricky. For one thing, I had to crank the ISO (light sensitivitity) as high as it could go so that I could use a fast (1/60 second) shutter speed, especially for groups like OUTLoud where there’s a lot of motion to go with the music.
When we weren’t singing, it was like a week-long chorus social. I got to hang out, party, and get to know many of my fellow singers, especially David, one of our newer basses who roomed with Jim and I and who used to be our neighbor across the hall.
There were a few adventures that aren’t fit for print … but alas, I didn’t have any of them. Darn.
So now we’re back, and have about a month and a half to rest up before starting on a new season (our 32nd!) with a new artistic director, Ben Riggs, who comes to us from the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus. (We were kinda personae non grata with them ’cause we’re stealing their director.)
Looking forward to doing it all again in 2016!Share