Blogging GALA :: Day Four
Sorry for the delay. Y’all probably thought I was going to leave Day 4 unremarked! I do apologize, but after all, even bloggers have to tend to the quotidian things... packing, traveling, getting caught up and settled back into life’s normal routines. So yes, this is just a few days late... but without further ado...
The Sound of Missing Another Brilliant Performance
Wednesday dawned bright and early. Not so your intrepid correspondent, who was increasingly sleep deprived and determined to be in good form for the evening’s festivities, including the closing celebratory bash, the Red Party. (I’d tracked down a pair of bright red shorts for $16 at a local department store: There was no way I was missing the party now that I had something in the requisite color.)
No, I lay abed far too long.
Hence, I didn’t make it to the day’s first Coffee Concert, Men Alive’s "Von Trapped," at 9:00 a.m. Drowsy and not inclined to move, I rationalized it this way: I never really cared for "The Sound of Music." (GASP! Shock! They’re gonna yank my gay card for this admission, aren’t they?) I could use the extra winks. What would I be missing, really?
Mistake! Evidently, I missed one of the BEST SHOWS EVER.
"What?" my pal James nearly sobbed when I told him. "You missed it? But, my God, it was the most wonderful thing I’ve see all week!"
Others in my chorus had similar words of praise. Oh, did I feel foolish.
But at an event featuring over 200 concerts, not to mention all the workshops and other social events, a guy has to do his best to pick and choose and get a few hours’ sleep in between times, not to mention stay hydrated... almost a full time job in itself during a Denver July. (Sadly, my research concluded that gin and tonic, while quenching thirst, doesn’t actually help a body stay hydrated.)
I did, however, make it to the morning’s second Coffee Concert, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus’ "Out of My Range (and Other Age-Related Performance Issues)." The show was packed with scathing humor and dead-on insights into the dynamics of the creature known as the Gay Male Chorus. The witty book and lyrics addressed everything from how men over 40 become invisible to those in their 20s and 30s, to how the family that is a chorus manages to break down internal barriers, to the challenges of learning the onstage choreography (known in choral circles as "choralography"). This was a show that allowed us to laugh at ourselves--always a good thing, in my opinion--and, in the end, walk away feeling good about ourselves, too.
I had one more chance to enjoy a full concert block before I’d need to go get dressed and then gather together with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus for our own performance. I chose to attend the concert block scheduled for Boettcher Hall starting at 12:30, featuring Out Loud: The Colorado Springs Men’s Chorus; Cantaria; the San Diego Women’s Chorus; and the Turtle Creek Chorale.
Out Loud offered an energetic program that included a daring rendition of "Kiss the Girl" (the "girl" in question appearing in mermaid drag and smooching members of the group behind her fan) and the nautically themed "Pirate Song," about a male-to-male shipboard romance.
More shanties were the order of the day for Cantaria ("The Gay Men’s Chorus of Asheville"), which fielded just under 20 singers. But that small group comprised such strong voices, which blended so well, that with your eyes closed you would have sworn you were listening to a group four times as big. That large, rich quality of voice came through especially well in the chorus’ touching rendition of "Sure On This Shining Night."
It was quite an honor, actually, for the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus to be scheduled at the very end of the last concert block. We had the privilege of topping off four extraordinary days of music and fellowship, sending our audience away with a smile and a glow.
After an a capella rendition of "One Sweet Day," we swung into "What’s Up?" by the openly lesbian group 4 Non Blondes. Next, we performed a slightly abbreviated version of a "RENT" medley, arranged by our accompanist Chad Weirick, who has a genius for such things.
We’d been scheduled as a "counterweight" against the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, who drew the bulk of the delegates (and who can begrudge them? They’re an awesome chorus, and they were joined by "Wicked" and "Godspell" composer Stephen Schwartz), but we still drew a crowd of about 1,000. I don’t mind saying that the crowd went nuts for us--I’m sure the rainbow-colored feather fans we deployed for our finale, a rendition of Ricky Martin’s "La Copa de Vida," only helped us there, not to mention our hot cast of dancers and the moves dreamed up by Michelle Chasse, our peerless choreographer.
But even better than the cheers and the ovation was the smile we earned from Reuben: There’s no better feeling than making your director happy. He’s the guy who, week after week, coaxes, cajoles, and teases the best out of us; he’s the guy who sometimes has to wring it out of us, but he gets the job done. To make him proud is to stand taller with pride in ourselves.
We were standing tall as we strutted off that stage, and then enjoyed our "Walk of Acclaim" through the building, up the sidewalk, and over to the photo area, a crowd of delegates pressing in from every side with applause and cheers. We grouped into a smiling, sweating bunch and raised our fans once more for a group portrait.
I had been inclined to skip the Closing Ceremonies, which would have only compounded my earlier mistake of not having gone to "Van Trapped," but my roommate J.D. saved me from myself. ("You have no idea. Come on. You need to go.") We ended up running late, but J.D. (clever fellow) texted a friend who happened to be near some empty seats; he save us two spots.
As it happened, our seats were next to two other BGMC members, Jake and "Uncle" Bob. The closing ceremonies were yet another highlight of the festival; Jake, eyes alight, turned to me and said, "GALA is the high school reunion with people you wish you had gone to high school with."
On stage, the Sugardandies--gay ballroom dancers Soren and Bradley Stauffer-Kruse--twirled and sparkled. The two met sixteen years ago at the fifth GALA; as it happened, this evening was their 16th anniversary. The crowd adored them.
Stephen Schwartz took to the piano to perform one of the songs from his musical "Wicked":
"Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you,
I have been changed for good."
After the Closing Ceremonies, the throng headed out into the street, song literally on the lips of all, and made its way to the Red Party at the Grand Hyatt’s Imperial Ballroom. I ran smack into a knot of singers from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and teased them about stealing our audience. (Actually, I was only sorry that I had not gotten to see them myself!)
"Aw, we’re sorry," one of them, a tall, gorgeous blond, said.
"I’ll forgive you if you tell me where I can get one of those hats," I said. The SFGMC had brought merchandise to sell at their table in the atrium of the Performing Arts Complex, but the ball caps, gorgeous black items emblazoned with a stylized red Golden Gate Bridge insignia, had been snapped up before I could get one.
Tall and gorgeous plucked the hat off his own blond head and put it on me.
I blushed as red as the insignia but smiled all night as I sported that hat on the dance floor. Mr. San Francisco, you are a gentleman and a star.