Photo Coverage: Alex Theatre's 'IT'S A FABULOUS LIFE'
With the sponsorship of Southwest Airlines, this amazing evening held at the Alex Theatre in Glendale CA and under the direction of Bruce Mayhall, brought festive song and dance that not only set the audiences feet to tapping and smiles to their lips, but also a tear or two to the eye as chorus members shared stories of Christmas' past.
Among those in attendance were Lindsay Wagner (Bionic Woman), Kate Linder (Y&R), Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me), Ilene Graff (Mr. Belvedere), Jason Graae (Grand Hotel), Channing Chase (Mad Men), Alison Arngrim (Little House on the Prairie), Dr. Iris Levine (VOX Femina LA), Monica Lewinski and more as the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles offered patrons a holiday album of musical snapshots.
The evening included classic fanfare from Joy to the World, The Christmas Waltz and Silent Night to an Irving Berlin White Christmas Melody as well as FUNfare such as Winter Ménage a Trios, Santa Llego a La Ciudad, We Need a Little Do-re-me and I Wanna Be a Rockette/Parade of Wooden Soldiers.
In 1978, as cars burned in the plaza outside San Francisco's City Hall to protest the sentencing of Harvey Milk's killer, a small group of men joined the demonstrations—and began to sing. That's how the modern gay choral movement was born.
Today there are over 150 transgender, gay, lesbian and mixed choruses across the United States, joined in song and coördinated through the work of GALA of which GMCLA is a proud co-founder. In July 1979, Los Angeles joined the growing choral civil rights movement when 99 men gathered in Plummer Park—and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles was born. The upcoming 30th Anniversary Gala Concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall on August 25, 2008, will launch a year of celebration to mark this achievement. GMCLA will sing and dance their way through a season both rich in memories but with an eye to the future.
GMCLA History — On a July night in 1979, a small group of men opened the doors to a room at the Plummer Park Community Center in Los Angeles (now West Hollywood) and waited and wondered if anybody would show up. They had posted flyers around the neighborhood announcing the formation of a new gay chorus and this night was to be its first rehearsal. To their great surprise, 99 men appeared and a chorus was born. Within three months of that rehearsal, founding director Harold Kjellberg led the group through its first major event: the March on Washington, D.C. and the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) concert at the Washington Memorial. While public understanding of gay life has evolved much since 1979, there is still fierce resistance to lasting change by opponents to LGBT equality. And the road to today has not always been easy.
Through the height of the AIDS crisis, the Chorus lost over 150 members. Only 12 original members remain. As a result, GMCLA has a deep history of service within the LGBT community, singing at countless memorials, making and commissioning music that helps the community to mourn, to celebrate, to dream, and to prepare for victory. For 30 years, the Chorus has built an international reputation for musical excellence while remaining deeply rooted in service to the Los Angeles community. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "one of the last important links to a glorious tradition in music," GMCLA has more than doubled in size to 226 singers, added professional and artistic staff, toured nationally and internationally, released thirteen compact discs, commissioned more than 300 new works and arrangements and appeared frequently on national television programs such as "Will & Grace" and "Six Feet Under." The Chorus membership donates over 60,000 volunteer hours annually to make GMCLA's mission of musical excellence and community partnership a reality.
Bruce Mayhall (Conductor & Artistic Director) begins his eight-year with the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. Under his artistic leadership, GMCLA has commissioned more than 300 new compositions and arrangements, adding significantly to the male choral repertoire. Bruce has also led the creation of six compact discs, including the first recording—Holidays LA—released directly to iTunes. GMCLA has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Freedom of the City of Montevideo (during GMCLA's groundbreaking 2006 Tour of South America) and, more recently, the LAGLC Board of Directors Award. Bruce has conducted numerous GMCLA performances with special guests including: Jerry Herman, Lily Tomlin, Linda Ronstadt, Nancy Dussault, Malcolm Gets, Joanna Gleason, Jane Lanier, Liz Torres, Marilynn Lovell Matz, Susan Egan, Vox Femina LA, Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, the Southeast Symphony Orchestra and the Chinese Classical Music Ensemble. On March 1, 2008, Bruce conducted the Chorus at its first invited, one-hour convention closing performance at the American Choral Directors Association Western Division. This was GMCLA's first ACDA appearance since 1986, when the Chorus became the first openly-gay group to perform for the
Hywel W. Sims (Executive Director) comes from a family history steeped in choral performance. In 1935, Hywel's uncle founded The Morriston Orpheus Choir, now one of Wales' leading male choruses. Moving to Los Angeles in 1989, Hywel became Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice, moving to Common Ground, the Westside HIV/AIDS Community Center as its Chief Executive Officer in 1996. Hywel also served as a Board member and Co-Chair at the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles between 1995 and 1997. Hywel is delighted to be able to combine his professional experience with his family history by returning to the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. Hywel's publications include 'Listening to the Experts'; a report on families affected by drugs and alcohol; his short stories and memoirs have been broadcast on KUSC and NPR.
This performance is supported by Gay Men's Chorus Los Angeles Gold Sponsors; Wells Fargo and AT &T as well as Silver Sponsors; Sky Tag, Dimitri Samaha, Bill Cunningham, ABS Properties Inc, Jim Avekedian/Phoenix Pharmacy, E. Rene Fette, Steve Neiffer, Eric Lassiter, John Denissen and Steve Murdock.
GMCLA 30th Anniversary season also will include:
• In February/March, 2009, following a romantic Valentine's weekend of cabaret, graduates of Music A+ Live (GMCLA's unique music education program) join GMCLA to celebrate a future filled with music.
• In June 2009, the inimitable Miss Coco Peru will host the awards show to end all awards shows.
Photo Credits: Bill Dow
Verdugo, Wendie Malick and Hywel Sims
Dr. Iris Levine, Hywel Sims, Ilene Graff and Bruce Mayhall
Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles
Glen Fetchwell, Bruce Mayhall and Jason Graae
Channing Chase, Hywel Sims and Lindsay Wagner