The Master Chorale of South Florida will open its 20th anniversary season with a free performance of James McCarthy’s cantata “Codebreaker” on Sunday, Sept. 18.
The work recounts key episodes in the life of Alan Turing, the British mathematician and early computer scientist who saved countless lives by deciphering Nazi codes.
The concert at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale will be led by Scott AuCoin, the chorale’s associate conductor and a doctoral student at the University of Miami. “Codebreaker” is also the subject of AuCoin’s dissertation and he will be bringing musicians from the university to join the chorale in the performance.
“I hope this concert serves as a reminder that queer people are not people to be silenced or feared,” explained AuCoin. “We’re here, we’ve been here, and we’re history-makers. We’re all ‘codebreakers.’”
Despite his heroic contribution to the war effort, Turing was still subject to anti-homosexual “buggery” laws in the United Kingdom. In 1952, he was prosecuted and underwent chemical castration. Two years later he died of cyanide poisoning, presumably suicide.
More than 50 years later after the laws were changed, Turing was granted a posthumous pardon by Queen Elizabeth and the prime minister publicly apologized on behalf of the government. A later act, known as the “Alan Turing law,” retroactively pardoned all gay men convicted for homosexual acts.
McCarthy’s cantata, which AuCoin describes as filled with singable melodies and cinematic harmonies, includes three movements based on important periods in Turing’s life: a teenage relationship with another boy who would tragically die while a teen; his work during World War II breaking Nazi naval codes; and his painful conviction and suicide, including an imagined afterlife.
AuCoin said the timing of this performance could not be timelier for LGBT audiences in South Florida with the passage earlier this year of the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“This is exactly the type of story we need to be telling, especially in Florida right now. [Turing] was struck down by his own government that he tried to save. And now our own legislature is trying to silence queer voices,” he pointed out.
The performance offers an especially appropriate opening to the chorale’s 20th anniversary season, added Artistic Director Brett Karlin, who has led the 115-voice chorale for seven seasons and is also gay.
“We wanted to start the season with something like this – it’s not about honoring the Master Chorale’s history, but broadcasting to audiences what they could expect in the next 20 years,” said Karlin.
For this performance, the chorale partnered with Our Fund and the Stonewall National Museum & Archives, as well as the Sunshine Cathedral. In addition to concerts featuring traditional choral masterworks, the 20th anniversary season will be bookended next spring with “Light on the Shadows,” in support of the Alzheimer's Association and acknowledging South Florida’s senior population.
“What we’re trying to communicate is that the Master Chorale of South Florida is the voice of the community. Our singers are all volunteers – doctors, realtors, other professionals who serve the community – and we’re trying to offer unique, engaging, moving community projects,” Karlin said.
The Master Chorale of South Florida presents James McCarthy’s cantata “Codebreakers” on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 4 p.m. at the Sunshine Cathedral, 1480 S.W. 9th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. The performance is free, but reservations are requested at MasterChoraleOfSouthFlorida.org.