Miami, Florida

The Miami Gay Men’s Chorus, founded in 1999, took the stage of the Ziff Ballet Opera House shortly after noon on Sun., July 13, to launch the first of this week’s 27 concert blocks at Festival 2008. With 67 delegates, led by Conductor Anthony Cabrera, the group presented a lovely rendering of Bobby McFerrin’s 23rd Psalm. The 30-minute program also included My Own Creation, composed by MGMC’s Chris Lobdell, with lyrics by Jerry Chasen; Amor de mi Alma (Z. Randall Stroope, composer); The Masochism Tango (Tom Lehrer, composer); and Alleluia (Paul Basler, composer).

Twenty seven members of the New Orleans Gay Men’s Chorus, founded in 1982, gave the group its strongest GALA presence in years, presenting excerpts from their spring concert, “HOME.” Under the baton of Artistic Director Cedric Bridges, the men offered In His Eyes/My Friend (Chuck Effler, composer); What a Wonderful World (George David Weiss, composer; Effler, arranger; George Douglas, lyricist); Opening Medley (Effler, composer); and Family (Henry Kreiger, composer; Effler, arranger). NOMGC’s vice president voiced his members’s thanks to GALA Choruses for the tangible and moral support they have provided in the three years since Hurricane Katrina.

In a reflection of good karma, the website of the New Orleans chorus encourages visitors to join in donating assistance to The Quire, a GLBT chorus affected by recent flooding in Eastern Iowa.

The MCC San Francisco Worship & Praise Team has some great male and female soloists among its 21 delegates. Gary Colman and Jill Sizemore composed and soloed in Gloria and I See You, God, respectively, while Rick Rosser and Larry Novida poured it on in Surrender (Cheri Toney, composer). The program also included Benedictus (Ilyas Iliya, composer). Music Director Stephanie Lynne Smith heads the Gospel ensemble.

Conductor Jerry Foust and the San Diego Men’s Chorus provided a rousing finish to the afternoon set with highlights from Jersey Boys (Bob Gaudio, composer; Mark Brymer, arranger; Gaudio and Brymer, lyricists); He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (Bobby Scott, composer; John Coates, arranger; Bob Russell, lyricist); Trashin’ the Camp (Phil Collins, composer; Moses Hogan, arranger); and Stayin’ Alive–Bee Gees Medley (Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb, composers; Teena Chinn, arranger). Let It Be (John Lennon/Paul McCartney, composers; Antonio Barazza, arranger) featured soloists Antonio Barazza and Jeff Crawford.

They have played in Europe and at Carnegie Hall, and now the five members of Uptown Express can add Miami’s Ziff Opera House to their resumes. With a pop repertoire covering the last 80 years, the energetic lads presented selections from their new CD, “Walk Like A Man,” backed by percussion, bass, and piano. John Followell, music director, arranged most of the tunes, including Who Loves You (Bob Gaudio & Judy Parker, composers); It’s All Right With Me (Cole Porter, composer); Goin’ Out of My Head (Randazzo/Winstein, composers); Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You (Gaudio/Crewe, composers); Come To My Window (Melissa Etheridge, composer); I Want Love (Elton John, composer; Bernie Taupin, lyricist); Constant Craving (k.d. Lang/Ben Mink, composers); Never Can Say Goodbye (Clifton Davis, composer); and Love Grows Here (Gross/Koutrakous/Perreaux, composers). Soloists Christopher Caswell, John DePalma, Alex Goro, and Brad Parks were terrific, respectively, in the Etheridge, John, Lang/Mink, and Davis.

Full group dancing, in platform shoes, lent a comic, 1970s flair to the 14 singers from the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus, led by Greg McMahan, guest music director. In its 22nd year, the group presented selections from its spring concert, including Dancing Queen: The Best of Abba (Andersson & Ulvaeus, composers and lyricists) and Seventies with a Twist (various composers, arranged by Mac Huff).

Now in its sixth season, Our Song: The Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chorus brought 34 singers, resplendent in black tie formal wear, to Miami to deliver several short tunes, directed by Dr. Robert Glor, artistic director. The selections included My Spirit is Uncaged (Paul Rardin, composer; Walt Whitman, lyricist); Breath of Heaven (Chris Eaton & Amy Grant, composers; Lloyd Larson, arranger; Eaton & Grant, lyricists); Whirligig (Chuck Cogliandro, composer; commissioned by Our Song); Bonse Aba (Traditional Zambian Song; Andrew Fischer, lyricist); Bach (Again), Come Sweet Death (J. S. Bach, composer; Rhonda Sandberg, arranger); There Will Be Rest (Frank Ticheli, composer; Sara Teasdale, lyricist); and Ain’t That Good News (William L. Dawson, composer and lyricist).

Sixty one singers of the 100+ member Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus also made the scene in black ties, accompanied by the Community Women’s Orchestra from San Francisco. Artistic Director Joseph J. Buches led the group through Open Road (Robert Maggio, composer); Bridge Over Troubled Water (Paul Simon, composer; Kirby Shaw, arranger); and Joyful, Joyful (Beethoven, composer; Warren, arranger; Emerson, adapter).

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus holds a special place in GALA Chorus history. Established in 1978, a month following the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, it was the first chorus to include the word “gay” in its name. Choruses formed in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and other cities between 1979 and 1981. In 1981, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus went on tour, visiting 12 cities around the country. The tour inspired the formation of many new lesbian and gay choruses, including the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus in 1981.

San Francisco’s artistic director, Dr. Kathleen McGuire, led a delegation of 129 delegates to Miami to close out Sunday’s performances with highlights from its recent seasons. The singers upped the sartorial ante, attired in white tie formal wear complete with white pocket handkerchiefs and sailor’s hats for excerpts from U.S.S. Metaphor (Sir Arthur Sullivan, composer; Kathleen McGuire, arranger).

The program also included Gay vs. Straight Composers, abridged (Eric Lane Barnes, composer and lyricist, with help from many); Love (David Conte, composer; Philip Littell, lyricist); and “Tonight” from West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein, composer; McGuire, arranger; Stephen Sondheim, lyricist).

A commissioned work by Ilyas Iliya, Safeer el-Layl (Ambassador of the Night), addressed a powerful plea for freedom to Muslims around the world, sung in Lebanese Arabic “so they can understand it.”

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