San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus to make Lincoln Center debut
By Tom Felkner
Few music venues around the world strike a chord as magical as that of Lincoln Center in New York City.
In just four weeks, its famous stage — which has hosted presidents to Pavarotti — will welcome the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus’ acclaimed Chamber Chorale for a performance of its landmark masterwork, “Tyler’s Suite.”
In addition to its singers, the Chorus will bring an important message to this world-renown stage, the message of overcoming bullying, especially for LGBT youth who are too often its victims.
“Music has an amazing power to convey the emotion and tragedy that’s part of ‘Tyler’s Suite,’” said Bob Lehman, SDGMC executive director. “You feel the loss of gay music student Tyler Clementi, who was bullied literally to death. Today, kids all around the world are hearing about Tyler and his story. They’re learning about the importance of kindness, about how to talk about suicide prevention and about how to stand up against bullying.”
SDMGC was one of the seven original commissioners of the nine-movement piece created under the musical direction of Stephen Schwartz, the genius behind the music of “Wicked,” “Godspell” and “Pippin.”
Schwartz collaborated with eight of today’s most celebrated composers and librettists: John Bucchino, whose songs have been recorded by Judy Collins, Liza Minelli and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Ann Hampton Callaway, multi-platinum-selling singer and songwriter; Craig Carnelia, three Tony Award nominations; John Corigliano, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, three Grammy Awards and an Academy Award; Stephen Flaherty, Tony Award, Academy Award and Grammy Award nominated composer; Nolan Gasser, architect of Pandora Radio Music Genome Project; Jake Heggie, composer of the operas “Moby-Dick” and “Dead Man Walking”; and Lance Horne, Emmy Award winner for best original song.
Directing the concert will be Dr. Timothy G. Seelig, conductor laureate and artistic director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Hampton Callaway will perform as soloist for a song she wrote about how Tyler and his mother, Jane, would say “I Love You More” upon parting.
SDGMC’s Chamber Chorale will join with 200 singers from across the country including members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus in Minneapolis.
“Singing on stage at Lincoln Center is, of course, an incredibly exciting opportunity for all of us, not only because of the prestige of the venue, but more importantly because of the work itself,” first tenor Michael Harrison said. “’Tyler’s Suite’ is a beautiful piece that celebrates a young and vibrant life so needlessly lost, and we are honored to be able to share it with audiences in New York.”
A group of all-volunteer singers, the Chorus members are also on a mission; to change lives one voice at a time. “Tyler’s Suite” has the ability to achieve that mission, to reach out — as what the San Diego Union-Tribune called SDGMC “San Diego’s gay ambassadors” — and change the hearts and minds of all communities.
“Many of us grew up in a culture where if you were thought to be gay, you would be bullied. That’s just what happened,” Artistic Director RC Haus said. “All of us feel that pain and ‘Tyler’s Suite’ tells that story of our lives.”
In 2014, Haus established the SDGMC’s Chamber Chorale for aficionados of classical and modern masterworks — both singers and audiences alike. It was a venture into new and exciting territory, because while all-male masterworks ensembles are highly prized, they remain a rarity outside of a few academic settings.
In one fell swoop, Haus created what has become one of the largest vocal chorales of its kind in the nation.
Since then, the 40-voice Chorale has presented multiple sold-out concerts and made regular appearances on the Balboa Theatre stage. In spring 2015, the Chorale appeared in Berlioz’s “Requiem” with the La Jolla Symphony.
SDGMC recently celebrated its 31th anniversary. With more than 200 members, it is one of the largest gay choruses in the world and has sung at various high profile locations, including the White House and the Super Bowl. The group’s mission is to change lives one voice at a time. SDGMC performs next on July 29 and 30 at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego with its summer show “Divas.”
For more information visit sdgmc.org.
—Tom Felkner is a freelance writer and the husband of SDGMC Executive Director Bob Lehman. He can be reached at email@example.com.