A full house at the Walt Disney Concert hall bore witness to what can only be described as an unfolding resurrection moment for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.
As the lights lowered on the sold-out house at the Frank Gehry designed auditorium, considered by many to the be among the finest and most important stages in the world, nearly 300 members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles entered the room, slowly, taking to the risers and giving the appearance of a regathering.
The audience welcomed them with thunderous applause.
Then, silence as Gavin Thrasher, the chorus’ interim director took to the podium, lifted his baton in pause, and lowered it.
There’s something due any day
I will know, right away
Soon as it shows
It may come cannonballing down through the sky
Gleam in its eye
Bright as rose
It’s only just out of reach
Down the block, on the beach
Under a tree
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due
Gonna come true, comin’ to me”
And so began the GMCLA’ 40th Anniversary concert extravaganza, accompanied by members of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus and nearly two dozen other LGBT choruses from around the nation.
The evening included special performances from Chrissy Metz and Soshana Bean, both of whom brought the house to their feet after spectacular, soulful performances.
The Choruses had gathered to celebrate not only GMCLA but to also acknowledge the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall.
In quick succession Thrasher, who is relocating to New York this month, took the audience on a journey that explored both the mythology and truth of Stonewall, offering voices from the era that called for action against homophobia that defined the times. One chorus member, acting the part of an early activists who called for peaceful assimilation, was followed by other members calling for a more active liberation movement and a debate about who started it, concluding with a declaration that a lesbian did.
Escalating into a cacophony of defiant chants as hundreds of members reenacted the riots, it ended with the tale of the Stonewall riots successful and repeated reassembly of crowds the police in 1969 tried in vain to disperse.
“We will always gather. You can’t keep us down,” declared one of the actors and sending the Chorus on a journey of increasingly celebratory song.
As if to honor the spirit of protest and civil right progress that 1969 is so defined by, the Chorus also pointed out a special guest who had played an instrumental role in those movements and who had played a particularly powerful role in LGBT rights and the AIDS fight; David Mixner, 73, was honored with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, regaled by the more than 3,000 people in attendance.
Executive Director Lou Spisto took to the stage and told the story of the Chorus’ work and strong support for the community and the many education programs it supports, asking the audience for contributions and raising more than $100,000.
Afterward, major donors and community notables gathered at a dinner reception in the lobby for GMCLA’s annual Voice Awards, honoring Mixner and his pioneering work in the community.
Mixner, in an emotional, extemporaneous and inspired speech urged attendees to pay the success of our movement forward.
“We’ve come along way,” he said, “but we must remember to protect our gains and to help those who have less power. We set the standards and now it falls on our shoulders to help others.”
More to come….