Gifts from GALA – A Sense of Solidarity

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.




About James Croft

James Croft is the Leader in Training at the Ethical Culture Society of St. Louis - one of the largest Humanist congregations in the world. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and is currently writing his Doctoral dissertation as a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is an in-demand public speaker, an engaging teacher, and a passionate activist for human rights. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay Humanist. His upcoming book "The Godless Congregation", co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Greg Epstein, is being published by Simon & Schuster.

  • Rebecca Cost

    Well said.
    I, too, felt a sense of solidarity every time I sat in one of the performance halls, walked through the walkways with the thousands of other attendees, or sat in a restaurant filled with happy chorus members. The message of the week was acceptance and a desire for change. The support that each member gave to all of the other choruses and ensembles was beautiful. People came to me days after our group performed and told me we did a great job. This event changed my life. A part of me is healed and I feel as if the next event can’t get here soon enough! Thanks!

  • Todd Kendall Gregory-Downs

    Thank you for this post! I was present at this performance, and I know all the kids in PerformOUTKC. They are remarkable, beautiful, joyous people who deserve to have extraordinary lives…and I believe this GALA experience will foster that for each of them. For me, it was one of many “solidarity” experiences at the GALA festival this year. For me, GALA is an example of how the world could be: unconditional support and love and yes, solidarity, no matter how well-funded or not, how large or small, how old/young, in-tune or out.

    Thanks again for this post!

  • Ken Strickland

    Thank you! Your words touched me and captured the emotions of our young people.
    Ken Strickland

  • Philip Shannin

    I was present as well. I had previously heard of that song, but never actually heard it, much less sung it until that day. I was positively magical. It was beautiful how everyone just harmonized with each other spontaneously, with such joy and togetherness. Solidarity is a good word for it.

  • Alex Tiller

    I wanted to thank you for this amazing entry. As a member of that very group, I keep thinking of that performance to his very day, even though it’s now September and I’m in the midst of my studies. This response is exactly what we wanted and I’m honored that you felt a sense of solidarity from us.

    • TempleoftheFuture

      Thanks Alex – that’s amazing! I mean to write some more posts in this series soon too – check back for them! I still watch the video and tears come to my eyes!