Miami, Florida

Twenty five years ago, GALA Choruses, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, took flight on its mission to serve the fledgling GLBT choral movement.

Now, with 120 member organizations in the United States, Europe, and Australia, ranging in size from five singers to 250, GALA represents the artistic, communal, and political aspirations of 7,500 singers and, by degrees of separation, their audiences.

More than 5,000 of those singers are gathered in the center of Miami this week for Festival 2008 to celebrate and perform from a growing body of GLBT choral work as well as “mainstream” standards.

The assembled ensembles will present 141 performances in 27 concert blocks at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts through July 19.

I traveled here from Minneapolis on Sat., July 12, with 122 delegates of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and 38 delegates of One Voice Mixed Chorus. Most of us are lodged at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay, Double Tree Hotel, or Hilton Hotel, located within a block of each other.

They build structures tall and skinny here to maximize views and income potential. James Davies and I are on the 18th of the Marriott’s 31 floors, with a balcony view of the marina below and across a sparkling Biscayne Bay to South Beach. We stayed here in 2002 while attending Dance/USA‘s Roundtable conference.

While many more are under construction, I am told there are 40,000 condos for sale in the immediate area; people can’t or won’t pay for the hurricane insurance.

Saturday’s opening ceremonies, sponsored by acfea Tour Consultants, featured engaging and spirited performances by Ann Hampton Callaway and the massed choruses of Florida.

There are lines everywhere for everything. Surprisingly, despite the scale of its convention and hospitality facilities, Miami feels under-prepared in some respects to handle 5,000 people; there is a degree of “not quite right.” Maybe, it is just us.

People have located the IGA grocery store, four blocks from the hotels, and are stocking in-room refrigerators. Everyone is settling in for the duration.

The positive energy is infectious!

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