I’ve just returned from GALA Festival 2012, a quadrennial convocation of Gay and Lesbian Choruses from all around the USA (and some from further afield). I sing with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus and Coro Allegro (Boston’s Classically Queer Chorus), and performed with both at the Festival. This series of posts, Gifts from Gala, record some of the wonderful lessons I drew from the amazing experience of singing alongside 45 ensembles, 130 choirs, and over 6,000 delegates in Denver, CO. This series of posts records the things I learnt from this life-changing experience: Gifts from GALA.
Solidarity is a difficult word for me. I understand what it means intellectually, and know where it comes from politically, but I have trouble understanding it personally. If you had asked me a week or so ago if I had ever experienced solidarity, I would find it tough to give an answer.
No longer. The GALA Festival gave me one of the most palpable feelings of solidarity I can possibly imagine.
Picture six kids of Perform OUTKC, two on guitars, four singing, leading hundreds in a performance of “We Shall Overcome”. Watch as the audience joins hands, sways together, raises their arms with the youngsters, some of whom are so overcome by the experience they can hardly find their voice. One is standing with his arms wide open, as if to embrace the crowd. Another is sobbing, arms trembling slightly in the air as the six link to each other. And, as they end, an ovation which shakes the wall, the audience cheering and applauding forever.
Imagine what it must be like to be a queer kid growing up in Kansas City, with all the struggles and trials of adolescence exacerbated by your queer identity, and then to stand on stage and watch as hundreds of strangers rise to their feet and raise their voice in song because of you. Because of the offering you brought to them. Joining you in a message of hope, love, and the belief that, someday, we will bake a better world for queer youth like them. Imagine the affirmation, the empowerment such an experience would bestow on a young person. That’s solidarity.
It’s easy to talk about being part of a “movement”. It’s a lot harder to get people to feel like they are part of a movement, to feel responsibility for each other, to feel like they share a common cause, to feel love for each other. But last week I felt it. I felt, deep in my core, what it means to be part of the LGBTQ Chorus movement, I felt the cause is righteous, and I knew that we can use the power of music to change lives. It was an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and I’m certain that the youth on that stage will remember it always, too.
Thank you, Perform OUTKC, for this gift from GALA.