‘The night’s first moving moment arrived with a song from their Tony-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” With Mr. Jackman playing piano at the start of “You Will Be Found,” the number deepened into a startling gorgeousness when the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus joined him onstage.’
For the full New York Times review on Hugh Jackman’s appearance at Madison Square Garden, click here.
We stood on that stage full of almost 600 people and a sold out audience all together singing the encore. "We will come back home, and we will come back home; Home Again!"
For the first time in my life, I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. I sobbed my heart out on the stage of the Carnegie Hall tonight and I'm not even ashamed. I belted out those comforting words while tears streamed uncontrollably down my face and onto the stage floor.
All the past rejection from my immediate family, friends and childhood didn't matter. I was "Home Again!" (Reuben Yantis, Waco, Texas)
Jennifer Molde (Colorado): Earlier today I literally asked “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” because I needed directions. (Of course my roomie said, “Practice.” 😉 ) It’s gorgeous in there and perfectly maintained. One of the NYCGMC production folks called the stage, “the sacred stage that is Carnegie Hall.” It’s true. It was like worship. We worshipped the audience and gave them the gift of our voices, our music. The audience worshipped us back with energy I’ve never felt before. And we all worshipped the LGBTQ leaders and activists and rabble rousers that came before us... our heroes.
We were told we broke a record for the largest chorus on that stage. I believe it. It’s a very large stage and it was totally and completely packed with singers. The sound we made rattled the very heavens. The executive director of the NYCGMC spoke and said there are times when you know exactly where you are on the planet. And furthermore sometimes you know precisely WHEN you are in the stream of time. Tonight we knew.
We did an encore and repeated singing From Now On from The Greatest Showman (we initially sang it at the end of the first act). I gave up on singing my fairly high part and just started belting in the range I’m most comfortable (somewhere around baritone). It was Carnegie Hall. It was the last song. There were over five hundred fifty other singers belting along with me. On the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots a trans woman stood on stage at Carnegie Hall and shook the rafters with every ounce of passion and volume she had. The applause was electric.
It was defiant. It was joyful. It was ecstatic. It was angry. It was standing for our right to exist. It was loud. It was GLORIOUS. I will remember this night for the rest of my life.
Here is my favorite picture from Big Gay Sing Body and Soul, in March 2019. So much joy, and it was an honor to do an entire program honoring music of the African American community.
It was fantastic to see our Youth Pride Chorus singers singing so confidently and with such power at last night’s Broadway’s Babies GALA concert at Le Poisson Rouge. Great hospitality, a host of amazing Broadway voices and a genuinely moving evening.
Musicians, singers, artists of all sorts - watch this! This simple justification of artistic excellence as a form of protest is utterly brilliant.
It puts my values into words so well. And these ideas apply to any institutionalized art, and especially art done by minority groups.
I’ve had my issues with Marsalis in the past, for the important strands of jazz his approach excludes. But here, he is truly a unifier. Regardless of art form or ethnicity, let’s all make great art in these untruthful times.
Last month, I did a long interview with Mimi Chan, on her ground-breaking ‘Culture Chat’ podcast.
She was a fantastic interviewer, listened hard, and asked great questions. I am so often unsatisfied with how I sound on tape! It comes out cringeworthy, stuffy and ‘British’ to my ears. But listening back, this time I think I managed to articulate why I do what I do with some clarity and humor. It was actually funny in places. I hope you enjoy it!
It was fabulous to work with the Gay Men's Chorus of Charlotte a few days back. So many stories, so much passion, so many amazing singers. We laughed, we sang and there were a few tears, as we remembered why we sing, and shared what being in a chorus means to us all in 2018. Oh, and what is it about the choreography for 'Chanukah in Santa Monica' that ALWAYS causes so much controversy?! Massive thanks to Kaarin Record Leach for her spirited accompanying, and to John Quillin for putting it all together. I left with more energy than I came with. — with Lester Bailey, John Quillin and Kaarin Record Leach.
And then Oh by gosh, by golly!, we also had a truly joyful and hilarious holiday music workshop with 7th Son, the swingin’ small ensemble of #gmccharlotte
Squarespace recently gave us the option to embed videos from Facebook, so below are a few recent projects to catch up with …
This was broadcast live on the uber-popular Elvis Duran show, on the morning of 9/11/2018. Max’s band were awesome - generous, efficient, open musicians, fun to work with. The song was so resonant about our city, and it was an honor to arrange the BVs collaboratively, and be part of this project.
Quite something. Possibly the largest audience NYCGMC have ever connected with, with roughly 60,000 present in person in Central Park, plus 24 million via MSNBC.
To blow my own trumpet briefly, my own TTBB arrangement, and I rehearsed the singers, with special choreography by Francis Toumbarakis, who did a great job! Oh, and Hugh Jackman is REALLY tall in the flesh!
In late May 2018, I was honored to be given the chance to do a workshop with a very special group, Coro Gay Ciudad de México. I rehearsed them in some of their material for the up-coming show, did some jazz improvising with them because it was something different, and then we did a Vision and Mission workshop, which turned out to be especially impactful.
At NYCGMC, our vision and mission has changed a bit over the years, but we know broadly who we are and why we do what we do. We experience the sense of community these groups can engender, we own that ours does that, and we tell each other that it does all the time. Likewise, we know that by our very existence, and through the songs we sing and the places we choose to express ourselves, we advocate for LGBTQ equality in the world.
It was in the final plenary, that I saw light bulbs begin to come on. There were tears and many hugs, as they articulated to each other publicly, often for the first time, how much the group meant to each of them since it started, how it had begun to change them as people, and how close they had become. I was able to experience once again the power of singing in the world, and help others to do the same. A good day ...
I recently returned from 'Dreaming Together', a unique tour of Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta, where NYCGMC performed multiple times with Coro Gay Ciudad de México (and the Puerto Vallarta Gay Men's Chorus in PV).
We had been building our relationship with the Mexico City group for 3 years, and they came and sang at our Big Gay Sing in March 2017, as our guests. Since then, the 5 year old group have grown to around 62 singers, doubling in size approximately every 18 months, and they are set to be the leading group in Mexico and indeed the region within a few years. We hear of other new groups just emerging in Chihuahua, Mexico and Tabasco too, so several parts of the country seem ripe for the development of new LGBTQ choirs.
Our singers have built strong relationships over several years now, staying with each other and making close friendships through singing together. A few are now in couples together, and I may lose one of my singers to their group! It was also great to sing in their city, and to raise some much needed cash for them, at one of their first gigs in a major concert hall. They pretty much sold out both nights with massive houses, and we hope the cash raised will enable them to do more, and to build infrastructure as they grow.
Their operation was highly professional, and I did 5-6 different media appearances in 2 days. As always, we learnt as much from them as they did from us, and both organizations grew. In the process, we made some amazing music.
Oscar Urtusástegui gave this very, very powerful speech. If anyone can make a difference for LGBTQ Equality in Mexico, this group can!