This weekend, music lovers in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties will have the opportunity to choose from two very different programs designed to educate and entertain.
The Miami Gay Men’s Chorus, under the direction of Anthony Cabrera, will perform the South Florida premiere of Andrew Lippa’s powerful choral work, “I Am Harvey Milk,” this weekend, ahead of Harvey Milk Day on May 22.
The 12-movement oratorio, Cabrera pointed out, has its musical roots on Broadway, written by the composer of “The Addams Family” and “Big Fish.”
“The music is extremely pleasing to the ear and melodic,” said Cabrera. “And after listening to it, you can’t help but think that message was beautiful … whoever walks into our concert should walk out with a sense of empowerment and motivation.”
In addition to the chorus, the performance features three soloists. Boy soprano Miguel Gonzalez portrays the young Harvey while tenor Tom Wyvill sings the part of the adult activist. Soprano Michelle Caravia sings the role of Milk’s mother, who encouraged him to pursue his dreams.
In addition to the oratorio, the program will also include a pre-concert talk with Ruth Shack, the member of the Miami-Dade County Commission who introduced the infamous gay rights amendment later overturned after a highly publicized campaign by singer Anita Bryant 40 years ago.
That referendum campaign elevated gay rights to the national discourse just months before Milk made the decision to run for office and become the first openly gay elected official.
“I’ve spent my entire life fighting discrimination and I saw this as another step in that path,” said Shack, 84. “There was no such thing as a gay community and you took your life in your hands. Teachers, designers, musicians — gays had to be completely closeted and if they expressed to the world who they were, they could lose their jobs, their friends and end up in jail.”
Given the rapid advances the LGBT community has made in recent years, young people have little understanding of how pivotal that battle in Miami would prove to be, added Shack.
Voices of Pride, the Gay Men’s Chorus of the Palm Beaches, presents “Live in Living Color,” at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lake, where the chorus is artists-in-residence.
“This ain’t your grandma’s church concert,” promised artistic director Tom Pilecki, who has led the 18-member chorus since its formation 13 years ago.
The chorus has invested in a new set, lighting and some surprises to transform the church sanctuary into a vibrant theatrical setting.
The program includes a colorful selection of pops and show tunes, ranging from the Louis Prima big band number, “Sing, Sing, Sing,” and Liza Minnelli’s arrangement of “Basin Street Blues” to songs from “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” and Bette Midler’s “It’s the Girls” album.
“We’re singing ballads, good pop, a little disco. I think this is going to be one of those shows that people will leave the concert humming,” said Pilecki. “You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Pilecki also praised his singers: “This group works so hard. Oh, my Lord, they work hard. It’s such a joy to work with them.”
The Miami Gay Men’s Chorus performs “I Am Harvey Milk” by Andrew Lippa on Friday, May 20 at Miami Beach Community Church, 1620 Drexel Ave., and Sunday, May 22 at Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ, 3010 DeSoto Blvd. Both performances begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 at MiamiGayMensChorus.org.
Voices of Pride presents “Live in Living Color” on Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 22 at 2 p.m. at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 100 N. Palmway in Lake Worth. Tickets are $25 at VoicesOfPride.org.