The first public screening of 'The Normal Heart'

Last night, HBO screened Ryan Murphy's passionate and at times gut-wrenching movie version of 'The Normal Heart' by Larry Kramer, which includes a scene featuring the New York City Gay Men's Chorus. This is my arrangement.

The scene is a reconstruction of the first ever fundraiser for GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis)  at the Paradise Garage in April 1982. New York City Gay Men's Chorus sang at this early fund-raiser, and we were honored to be asked to participate in the movie alongside Mark Ruffalo, Julia Roberts and Jim Parsons, essentially playing ourselves. Glee-style, the chorus sings the whole of Gershwin's 'The Man I Love'. Below is a picture of Peter Criswell, our Executive Director, and I representing NYCGMC at HBO, for the cast and crew screening.

It was of course weird to see ourselves on screen, but the chorus looked amazing! It was also my first movie credit as an arranger. The movie is a very truthful, compelling and at times harrowing account of the early days of HIV/AIDS in New York, and left the audience with one of those deep silences after which you can't speak for a few minutes.

I'm so grateful to all the NYCGMC members for their faith in me, and for giving up their time to take part. We rock! Also to Scott Ferguson, who saw the potential in us. And of course to Peter Criswell, who made it happen, and could not be a more supportive colleague. We are a chorus founded to change the world through educating people about the lives and challenges gay men face through song. It could not be more apt that we were able to be a part of this important project.  I am very proud.

 I really loved the part in Mark Ruffalo's interview where he says his character Ned Weekes (representing Larry Kramer), though angry and confrontational, was in the end inspired by great love for his fellow man and in the end for America. Ruffalo certainly plays him that way, and that gives the whole movie an amazing humanity.

The film is a timely reminder of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when prejudice, ignorance and the stigma of being gay led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.  It also shows us how much has changed, historicizes that time (yes, 30 years ago), and highlights the fundamental changes in attitude which have taken place since then, both around the LGBTQ community and HIV/AIDS itself. As such its message in many ways a positive one - those times are past.

See it if you get the chance!

Check out reviews of the movie from the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, NPR and Entertainment Weekly.

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— with Peter Criswell.

Charles BealeComment