As we plan for Festival 2016, I find myself thinking back on my experience at our last Festival in 2012. Aside from the headaches and hassles that come with every big event, I have three memories that have really stayed with me.
First, as I walked into Boettcher Concert Hall on the second day of Festival, I heard someone call my name. I turned and saw my friend, Cindy. We worked together back in Arizona but we moved to different states and lost touch over the years. Although we were both busy, we wound up meeting across the street at The Corner Office where we caught up. I remember walking out of that meeting exhilarated. It felt so good to reconnect with my old friend.
My second memory occurred after a particularly moving Youth Invasion Blockbuster concert. I went backstage to congratulate the performers and I met Aaron, a 15-year-old from Colorado. He told me about how he’d been closeted, isolated and very depressed. He learned about the Mosaic Youth Chorus online and hitchhiked to a rehearsal. He didn’t particularly want to sing; he just wanted to meet other people like himself so he wouldn’t feel so alone. Long-story-short, he joined the chorus, came out to his family, and was there at Festival with his mom and his chorus. Aaron felt like connecting with the chorus saved his life.
My favorite memory is from the last day of the Festival. I was exhausted and I looking forward to the Closing Concert because it meant I’d be going home soon. After the speeches, applause and awards, my colleague Jane led the entire audience in singing a simple, affirming round. I like to sing but almost never in public. I remember starting by mouthing the words, gradually singing aloud, and as we filed out of the hall and into the streets, singing at the top of my lungs. As we marched through downtown in this sea of people tears were streaming down my face, partly from relief but also because of the sense of belonging I felt as a member of our choral community.
So Festival, for me, was all about connections: reconnecting with old friends, connecting someone in need to a chorus, and connecting with the greater choral community. GALA Choruses is about connections, too. We connect emerging choruses with experienced mentors to get them off to a healthy start. We connect singers, musicians, and chorus leaders to a vast array of online resources. And we connect singers from around the world to one another.
If you value these connections too, I invite you to support GALA Choruses with a year-end gift. Your donation helps us to support LGBT choruses as we change our world through song. Thank you. I look forward to connecting with you at Festival 2016.