For those who wish to gain further insight into the mission and inner workings of gay choruses, tomorrow night the Prince Music Theater will host the Philly premiere of "Why We Sing!," a new documentary profiling the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, aka GALA Choruses.
Narrated by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, "Why We Sing!" traces the history of the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) choral movement, concentrating on four groups at the 7th International Choral Festival in Montreal in 2004. Though it includes some archival footage and interviews with several participants, the film rarely leaves the stage for very long, ensuring that audiences will experience plenty of musical samples over its one-hour duration.
Eric Jansen, who wrote the documentary and co-produced with director Lawrence "Bud" Dillon, said the filmmakers, both of whom have been members of gay choruses, are aiming the film at "anyone who enjoys music and/or has an open heart and mind."
"Especially straight people who might see the film and think about the gay people in their lives in a different way - and for that matter, gay people who might see the transgender people in their lives in a new light."
A series of title screens elaborates on "Why We Sing!": community, faith, freedom, change, goodwill, tolerance. That last concept came distressingly to light during production when one of the singers, a young man from Seattle, was gay-bashed in Montreal's "gay village" on the festival's first night. The film includes a performance by his chorus dedicated to the experience.
"He wasn't badly hurt, but shaken up, of course," said Jansen. "It shocked everyone at first, then reinvigorated them and reminded them all of our purpose - letting the world know about our lives through song and music, and in so doing, changing the world."
According to Godfrey, it is incidents such as this that prove the importance of GALA Choruses' mission.
The film spotlights not only specifically gay, lesbian or transgender choruses, but also those with more-integrated memberships and some that combine gay and straight members, including a gay-straight youth chorus from Seattle. Jansen explained that besides being an important soapbox, GLBT choruses can become a support network for their members.
"These choruses provide a source of community that you can't find in the bar scenes, that's for sure," Jansen said. "Unfortunately, in many small towns there aren't many GLBT options to bars. Even in San Francisco, these choruses provide a sort of large, supportive family like I've rarely, if ever, experienced elsewhere." *
- Shaun Brady