During rehearsal for our performance at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv on our last night in Israel, our first look at the space was disappointing, to say the least: Only 40 chairs had been set up for audience members and our stage was tucked away in a corner of the Dellal Center’s vast outdoor courtyard.
We weren’t necessarily surprised. After all, our performance was just one element of the White Nights festival, which is a celebration of the arts in Tel Aviv. These events are generally quite relaxed and informal, and audience members drift in and out throughout performances.
After rehearsal, we were led to one of the smaller courtyards of the complex and presented with a tasty buffet of Mediterranean cuisine. As we ate, we got our first glimpse of the fact that this concert might be something more than a performance for 40. First, the festival was well attended; people were streaming in and out of our small courtyard, many of them glancing―in a not-so-obvious way―at the large group of American men all dressed alike in blue Boston Gay Men’s Chorus polos and khaki shorts and pants. Second, we could see―just 30 minutes before the start of our concert―that most of the 40 seats were filled and another 20 or 30 people were standing behind them waiting for us to begin.
We retreated to a corner of our small courtyard for final preparations, and to line up to file on stage. I can assure you that none of us were prepared for what we saw when we finally walked out before the audience: every seat was taken and people were squeezed together on the floor space around the seats and in front of our stage. (There were so many people sitting on floor space in front of the stage―both of which were at the same level―that we had to adjust our opening dance number of the fly to make sure we didn’t collide with anyone in the audience!) Even better, though, was what we saw beyond the seats: the vast courtyard expanding well beyond our stage corner was absolutely packed with people straining to get a look at us!
We later learned that our audience of nearly 3,000 people had pushed the upper limits of the Dellal Center space! And rather than drifting in and out as our concert progressed, more and more people kept packing themselves into whatever nook or cranny they could find. They stood throughout our 90-minute performance (we abandoned plans for an intermission), and they clapped and danced along. They roared with approval during our solo performances. The energy was high, and one of our audience-goers who was enthusing about the performance afterwards actually said to his friend, “That was like a U2 concert!”
But even more impressive? When we performed “Peace”―a deeply moving rumination of what is means to feel at peace, and which is not only a technically difficult piece to perform, but also one that requires quiet attention from our audiences―our previously boisterous audience listened quietly and attentively.
Following the concert we had many audience members stay to meet us and let us know how much they enjoyed the concert. Many talked about how a particular song was their favorite, or what it meant to them. By the time we were walking out of the center and back to our busses, we had several moments of spontaneous applause as we passed by groups of people who had been at our performance.
All told, the energy was electric and the show ranks as one of my personal favorites―not just from this tour, but from my four years as a BGMC member!