August 6, 2019 at 2:24 pm PDT | by Scott Stiffler
Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles concert studded with stars, Stonewall

June 27, Carnegie Hall: The 150-member strong GMCLA contingent (R), with NYCGMC, their east coast commissioning partner. (Photo by Gregory Zabilski)

Stonewall 50 has come and gone—but its legacy lingers, when the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) wraps up their 40th anniversary season with a gala concert that pays tribute to that pivotal event in the fight for our rights, while celebrating their own ongoing presence as one of the country’s longest-running, and largest, LGBTQ arts organizations.

In addition to performing the Stonewall-themed “Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall,” Aug. 16’s “GMCLA 40 / STONEWALL 50” concert will see the Chorus present longtime activist and fundraiser David Mixner with their Lifetime Legend Award.

“Honoring David Mixner is so right,” GMCLA executive director Lou Spisto told the Blade on June 19, when this year’s award recipient was announced, calling Mixner “a pioneer, hero, and legend, in our community and many others.”

As for their special guests, “We are beyond thrilled to have these incredible artists join us onstage for this Gala Concert,” said Spisto, in a July 25 announcement that Chrissy Metz (star of NBC’s “This is Us”) and Shoshana Bean (star of Broadway’s “Waitress”) will be on hand. “These two great singers, who are true allies of the LGBTQ community, have been raising their beautiful and powerful voices for important causes for years. They will add immeasurably to our music and our message.”

Metz and Bean will be featured in the first part of the concert, which draws upon the pop, Broadway, and choral canon. Metz is set to perform the Diane Warren-penned “I’m Standing With You” (from the soundtrack to the film “Breakthrough”). Bean will bring some Broadway dazzle, with “She Used to Be Mine,” from Sara Bareillis’ “Waitress” score.

The press release announcing Metz and Bean noted the latter will “also lead GMCLA, and some surprise guests, in a very new take on a classic Broadway song.”

Pressed for some dish with a side order of spoilers, Spisto diplomatically demurred, stating, “I’m not going to give you every single piece, but I can tell you we’re going to be doing music by Bernstein, Sondheim, and some traditional choral music.” As for that new take on a classic, Spisto hints they’ll be doing “a very interesting interpretation of a classic Jerry Herman song from ‘Hello, Dolly!.’ ”

The August concert finds GMCLA back from a recent trip to NYC, where they joined their east cost commissioning partner, the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC), and several other LGBTQ choruses from around the country. The June 27 Carnegie Hall performance received a standing ovation from the sold-out house. (No pressure, Los Angeles, but hint, hint is all we’re saying. Don’t let the home team down.).

Members of the Los Angeles Gay Men’s’ Chorus participated in NYC’s June 30 Pride March. (Photo by James Geiger)

“It was a wonderful celebration,” recalls Spisto, of the Carnegie Hall experience. “The concert was performed the night before the actual 50th anniversary of Stonewall, and there was a wonderful collective spirit.”

Describing “Quiet No More” as a “very complex work of music that took many weeks to learn,” Spisto says the “passionate, emotional and cathartic work” explores events on and around the Stonewall Riots of 1969. “That sense of celebration and being out moves to that of confrontation and chaos,” he notes, “which then morphs further into anger, defiance and, finally, unity. The last two movements [of this eight-movement work] walk us through what happened after the riots—and we realize what we accomplished at that point.”

The Aug. 16 performance of “Quiet No More” takes a strength-in-numbers approach. GMCLA’s 270 members will be joined by up to 500 singers from the 25 co-commissioning choruses from around the country (who have committed to presenting the 40-minute work on their home turf). “So it will have many airings across a period of a year or two,” Spisto told us in June, “and the combined effect will be to have a resounding collective voice about, and around, the Stonewall anniversary.”

In addition to the 7:30 PM concert, open to the public, GMCLA will host a private pre-concert reception and post-concert dinner for 300 guests, with proceeds going to support their music education programs.

The Alive Music Project, Spisto explains, “brings the Chorus into high schools throughout the LA region,” where they perform songs from their repertoire, in a workshop setting. “We also individually, as member of the Chorus, speak to the young people about who we are, and our lives—and so, by example, are presenting them with a positive image of what the LGBTQ community is, and who we can be—as people, and as a community.”

The Arts for Incarcerated Youth project has the Chorus going into juvenile detention centers, working with small groups. “We teach the music, we perform music with them, and also, again, by example, lead these young people in our music, and who we are,” says Spisto, noting, “Those programs are, of course, academically based, and have to be extremely sensitive to the environment we’re in. They’re very, very rewarding programs.”

The concert takes place Fri., Aug. 16, 7:30 PM, at Walt Disney Concert Hall (111 South Grand Ave.). Concert tickets (starting at $50) are available online at GMCLA.ORG/WDCH or by calling the venue’s box office, at 323-850-2000. For more information on Gala Ticket packages, email GMCLA at events@gmcla.org or call 424-239-6506. 

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