In June 1969, the Stonewall riots took place, marking a seminal moment in the gay-rights movement—and the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus has joined forces with other LGBT choruses across the country to mark the occasion in a big way.
The chorus will conclude its season with Quiet No More–A Choral Celebration of Stonewall with shows Friday through Sunday, April 26-28. During a recent phone interview with Douglas Wilson, the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus’ artistic director, he explained the highlight of these concerts.
“It’s a new masterwork that was commissioned by 20 choruses in the United States, and it was composed by six different composers who each wrote a different movement—and it’s a big production,” Wilson said. “The whole piece is in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, the moment that really started the gay pride movement. The first four movements focus on that night and what happened later that night. The next movements talk about where we’re going now that we have marriage equality and gay people running for office. What are we doing now? What’s next? What can we do to keep this going?”
The PSGMC shows will mark the West Coast premiere of the new piece.
“This one has a big social message,” Wilson said. “This is when the piece was ready, and it was commissioned so the New York Gay Men’s Chorus could do it on the anniversary of Stonewall on June 27.”
The piece has not been an easy one for chorus members to learn—although they’ve been happy to do so.
“This was very interesting to work on. Our rehearsal time took much longer than we thought it would,” Wilson said. “There’s some very difficult rhythms and some parts that take a while to get used to.”
The rest of the show will be dedicated to songs about fights for equal rights—and Wilson promised the show would be uplifting rather than depressing.
“We don’t want to do something that will leave our audience depressed and feeling like we’ve drilled gay rights into them. The piece ends on a very positive note: Go out and vote; go out and run for office; go out and do all these different things, and the world will be a better place,” he said.
“The second part of the program, we’re doing different songs that are connected with different protest movements over the years. We’re doing suffragette songs; we’re doing civil rights songs; we’re doing songs of the United Farm Workers; and, of course, we end up with a couple of gay songs. We’re looking at all of these people struggling for their freedom and getting their freedom.”
Wilson said the chorus members are excited about the show’s message.
“I think this was really good for us. Those cover songs and those spring things that we (normally) do, they’re very fun to do, but they aren’t really challenging,” Wilson said. “It gives everybody a great sense of accomplishment. They say, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t think we could ever learn that, and we learned it and performed it.’ I think they’re feeling very positive about it.”
Would the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus take on something like this again? Wilson said yes—as long as audiences respond positively.
“We’ll see how the audience reaction is,” he said. “I hope that they’ll find it’s something they enjoyed coming and listening to. I hope they’ll want to hear more.”
The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus will be performing Quiet No More–A Choral Celebration of Stonewall at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27; and 3 p.m., Sunday, April 28, at the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25 to $50. For tickets or more information, visit www.psgmc.com.