PGN sat down with PGMC director Joseph Buches for his impressions of this mega event.
JB: PGMC had 100 active members in our last concert. Currently, we already have 14 people signed up for upcoming auditions for the 2016-2017 concert series (see www.pgmc.org). We had 71 chorus members singing as PGMC at GALA 2016. In addition, Andrea Clearfield, the composer of our commissioned piece, and Jerome Kurtenbach, the arranger of our other two GALA songs, both performed with us.
PGN: How did you finance the expensive trip?
JB: Chorus members largely paid personally for their own registration fees, airfare and hotel accommodations. PGMC awarded six members with scholarships to cover their registration from funds raised at an event.
PGN: What were the highlights of your participation?
JB: Being able to experience concerts performed by choruses from around the globe was an amazing opportunity for PGMC and its members. The sense of family and support that the festival-goers experienced created a warm and inviting environment.
PGN: You gave several performances in large concert halls.
JB: We participated in our own concert block, as well as the Holiday Hullabaloo and the Gender Blender Blockbuster Concerts. A few members participated in the HIV-Positive Festival Chorus, which was comprised of 70 singers from various choruses. Our small ensemble, Brotherly Love, did its own performance.
PGN: You received many standing ovations. What did choral directors tell you about your program?
JB: The choral directors that I spoke with really enjoyed our set, particularly our commission, “That Summer: A Fantasia on Family,” by Andrea Clearfield (music) and Tom Gualtieri (lyrics). They commented on our wonderful sound, musicality, clear diction and overall performance. We were a big hit among the directors, one of whom wants to perform “That Summer” in their program next year.
PGN: What stood out for you at this year’s conference?
JB: PGMC was very involved in Festival 2016. More singers came from Philadelphia and from around the world than ever before. It was great to see so many people who share the love of LGBTQ choral music.
PGN: What did chorus members tell you about their best experiences?
JB: They enjoyed listening to all the various performances from the different choruses. It’s an opportunity for everyone to hear new music. Of course, they enjoyed getting to know new people as well as reconnect with old friends.
JB: We always get a lot of repertoire ideas from GALA Festival. Chorus members were asked to take note of any particular songs that they liked and let me know for possible future programming. We are planning a collaboration with another GALA chorus for spring of 2018. We did a similar one in 2014 with the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, where we performed up there, and they came here for our performance in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
PGN: How would you summarize the experience?
JB: The GALA Festival provides inspiring opportunities to share with and learn from other choruses. In addition to expanding our artistic repertoire and experience, we were able to discuss issues from best practices on topics ranging from fundraising to diversity. All of these things enable us to grow as an organization, achieve our mission, and build our youth-outreach program in schools.
Originally published by Philadelphia Gay News (PGN).