When the three largest local gay men’s choruses take the stage together in Lauderhill and Coral Gables next weekend they will not only be observing the 50thanniversary of one of the seminal moments in the gay rights movement, they will be making history themselves.
The Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida (GMCSF) and the Miami (MGMC) and Fort Lauderdale (FLGMC) Gay Men’s Choruses will perform the regional premiere of “Quiet No More,” originally commissioned by choruses in New York City and Los Angeles and co-commissioned by other ensembles in South Florida and across the nation.
“It’s the most exciting thing we’ve done since I became conductor,” said an exuberant Harold Dioquino,” artistic director of GMCSF, of the collaboration. “It’s an appropriate time since we’re celebrating the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall riots. I immediately contacted Anthony and Gary,” referring to Miami director Anthony Cabrera and Fort Lauderdale’s Dr. Gary Keating.
GMCSF was formed a decade ago after members left the original Fort Lauderdale over management issues with a former artistic director and board. Dioquino saw this opportunity to finally heal the lingering wounds from that tumultuous period.
“I wanted to make sure the barrier between the two choruses is finally gone and this was the time,” Dioquino explained.
At their first joint rehearsal, 150 singers watched an educational video about the riots — most members were either very young or not even born 50 years ago — and then engage in some icebreaker exercises. Just like a machine with many moving parts, a chorus relies on each singer and his voice to successfully execute and interpret the musical score, Dioquino pointed out.
“I think it’s wonderful. We’ve all been around a long time now, so it’s nice to get to do something together outside of a festival,” said Miami’s Cabrera.
Cabrera noted that each movement of the work was written by a different composer, an unusual situation for most musicians, and the work was intended to evoke the story before, during and after the famous riots. Each of the conductors took three of the movements and rehearsed the choruses over the past months.
“It’s really diverse in its styles. There’s disco, gospel and even a pop ballad written by Ann Hampton Calloway. There are movements that sound like old Irish folksongs and 21stcentury art music that is there to set the mood,” explained Cabrera. “There’s even one movement that literally creates an out-of-body experience as you’re caught up in the riots and then float up above, observing. It’s very difficult music, too, very challenging.”
The work concludes with “Speak Out,” a rousing anthem that invites the audience to join in song and celebrate the victory of those young LGBT people marching in the streets of New York City’s Greenwich Village five decades ago.
For Fort Lauderdale’s founder and returning musical director Keating, the performance offers not only a musical experience, but an educational experience.
“I’m 67 and ... I didn’t come out until 1979. I was able to watch all of this and I’ve been here for the South Florida history to watch all the changes. At rehearsals, members of all the choruses have asked questions,” Keating said. “I’m considerably older than Anthony and Harold, so it’s been a nice experience to explain to them [and the singers) what was going on and how it affected life here. The education has been about far more than just Stonewall.”
The Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, Miami Gay Men’s Chorus and Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus present the regional premiere of “Quiet No More,” commemorating the 50thanniversary of the Stonewall riots, on Friday, June 21 at 8 p.m. at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, 3800 N.W. 11thPl. in Lauderhill, and Saturday, June 22 at 8 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of Coral Gables, 536 Coral Way in Coral Gables. Tickets are available at GayMensChorusOfSouthFlorida.org and MGMChorus.org.