It’s a good thing the Broward Center’s Au Rene Theatre was available next weekend. More than 275 lesbian, gay and allied musicians from across the country will be converging on South Florida, Nov. 5 – 9, for the Lesbian and Gay Band Association (LGBA) conference, which includes a massed band concert.
“We’re not going to be able to fit 250 musicians on stage anywhere else,” said a relieved Alain Ortiz, president of the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble and conference chair. “We got lucky.”
For the sixth time, the Pride Wind Ensemble will be hosting the event that will attract musicians packing everything from tubas to triangles from as far away as Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix and New York City.
Planning such a large event is a major undertaking for the 70-member local band—an event that seems to occur about every five years—and involves more than two years of planning and the efforts of dozens of volunteers.
In addition to reserving hotels, rehearsal and concert venues, the host committee organizes business meetings and breakout workshops and coordinates the logistical challenge of compiling and distributing music for 250 musicians.
LGBA board members will begin arriving in South Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 5, with the remaining musicians checking in the following day. They will attend rehearsals, breakout workshops—including a showcase of the Youth Pride Band, the hugely successful local LGBT and allies’ student honor band program—and, of course, socials, including a tea dance on Sunday, Nov. 9 at the Royal Palms resort.
One LGBA musician who can appreciate the tremendous amount of work involved is tuba player Cliff Smith of the Atlanta Freedom Band. Smith chaired the convention in his hometown last year and is a veteran of LGBA conferences for nearly 20 years.
“For the host band, it’s thrilling to have 250 musicians come from 32 different bands and have the opportunity to showcase your city,” he said.
Fort Lauderdale is a particularly attractive destination for the musicians, Smith noted.
“The last time we were there, our rehearsal room at the hotel was on the penthouse level,” he recalled. “It was a beautiful day, looking out at the blue water and here we were inside. It’s a very strange sort of vacation, most people come to relax on the beach, but we bring our instruments and music stands.”
Smith plans to arrive a few days early to enjoy the South Florida sunshine, but the concert is always the highlight of the trip, as he reunites with friends from across the country.
The program for the concert is titled, “Fiesta Caliente,” and will feature Latin and Spanish music of a wide variety of genres, from classics to popular numbers like “Mambo” from “West Side Story” and Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana.”
Joining the band at the performance will be Tropical Wave, the small ensemble of the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, guest vocalist Carla Bordonada and the Pride Steel Drum Band. Conducting the concert will be Pride Wind Ensemble artistic director Dan Bassett and assistant director Gary Hoffman and guest conductors Jadine Louie and Scott Helms from the San Francisco and Phoenix LGBA bands.
Tickets are still available for the concert for $30 at the Broward Center box office. Perhaps the biggest challenge for organizers is filling the massive nearly 3000 seat theater. Music lovers are encouraged to experience the massed band, an experience that won’t happen again, at least for another five years.
The Pride Wind Ensemble and Lesbian and Gay Band Association perform “Fiesta Caliente” on Saturday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Au Rene Theatre of the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $30 at BrowardCenter.org. For more information about LGBA conference activities, go to LGBA2014.org.