GALA Choruses Rise Up Singing in the Face of Cancelled Festivals


Singers from Coro Allegro perform as part of Devotion: A Celebration of GALA Choruses, which premiered on June 27.

This year, the world nearly lost GALA Choruses to the strain of festival cancellations. The association was saved by an outpouring of support from the 190 member choruses and 12,000 LGBTQ+ and allied singers it serves. No stranger to pandemic, having helped so many communities during the HIV/AIDS crisis, GALA Choruses determined to survive. “We will keep the association alive. We will help the member choruses back on their feet,” said executive director Robin Godfrey. “That was the mission we undertook. Find a way.”

This June, Coro Allegro, Boston’s LGBTQ+ and allied classical chorus, David Hodgkins, artistic director, honored this commitment with Devotion: A Celebration of GALA Choruses, presenting the Daniel Pinkham Award to GALA’s staff and board. Music and stories from singers, alumni, directors, composers, and activists celebrated GALA’s impact, the power of hearing your story represented, and the need to raise our voices for international LGBTQ+ rights. Representing GALA Choruses’ contributions to the choral repertoire were works commissioned by Coro Allegro from Grammy Award-winner Kenneth Fuchs and a contemporary passion, inspired by the legacy of slain Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist David Kato Kisule, composed by Eric Banks and featuring countertenor Reginald Mobley. Sam Brinton of the Trevor Project encouraged all to return for GALA Festival 2024 for a new Coro Allegro commission featuring letters across generations, affirming Trans kids and survivors of conversion therapy (encore, September 30 at 8:00 p.m. EDT).

The resilience of GALA Choruses was on display at the July 7–11 GALA Virtual Festival 2021. Audiences from Festival 2016 will never forget hearing the Orlando Gay Chorus talk of the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub massacre, when singers kept music and outfits in their cars because they appeared at so many memorials. Five years later the Orlando Gay Chorus returned with My Portraits of Pulse: An Orlando United Story, told from the perspective of J.D. Casto, a local photographer, filmmaker, and chorus board member, with music including the premiere of a new SATB arrangement of Melissa Etheridge’s “Pulse.”

In A Roof and a Bed, the Portland Lesbian Choir invited audiences inside the experience of housing insecurity with two new commissions: a setting of poetry by unhoused women and a courageous family story of a troubled youth’s journey to find home.

GALA celebrated its roots in two video retrospectives from its past: Our Legacy=Our Song, a 2012 program featuring sculptor Vanessa German and journalist Dan Savage; and A Song of Courage, the 2008 documentary of the history of the LGBTQ+ choral movement. GALA’s future was proudly displayed in the GALA Youth Choruses Showcase. LGBTQ+ Youth choruses from Portland, Washington, Nashville, San Diego, Tucson, and New York City sang from roof tops, garages, backyards, clubs, and stages, bringing light, love, and the energy of outside voices. Their explorations of race, land stewardship, and coming out showed GALA Choruses’ mission of changing the world through song is in good hands.

*An encore of Devotion: A Celebration of GALA Choruses will take place September 30, 2021. For information about this and other events from the GALA Choruses Rise Up Singing series, visit Past events can also be found on the GALA Choruses YouTube channel.

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