Building Bridges

June, 1992. Sunday afternoon rehearsal, a tense moment of challenge. Ali scolded us, “If you don’t concentrate with every fiber of your being, concentrate on blend, on singing precisely in the center of the pitch, we are going to divide the performance. Half of you will perform in one hall and half in the other.” That did it.

A few weeks later… Denver, July, 1992. GALA IV. (GALA: Gay and Lesbian Choral Association) A week jam-packed with choral performances and the high energy of focusing for four years on performing for each other for half an hour. In that era of GALA choral festival, every chorus performed twice – we did our set in Buell Theater, then made our way underground through a maze of corridors to perform again in Boettcher Concert Hall. This was Bridges Vocal Ensemble’s debut as a GALA chorus.

Ali’s challenge: meld our 28-voice chorus to perform a close-harmony, fast-paced arrangement of Cris Williamson’s folk ballad Shooting Star, an arrangement originally performed by a professional quintet, one voice per part. This song, eventually our signature song, was the culmination of our GALA set, performed for several thousand of our peers.

There is no audience more exhilarating or terrifying than GALA – singing for thousands of choral singers who all know what you’re trying to do and if you succeeded. Cheering for you, knowing you worked as hard and traveled as far as we all did to get there. Assessing (sometimes judging) you —  how might you have done that better or differently? And occasionally awestruck – O.M.G. to be able to sing like that…

Boettcher Concert Hall was packed to the rafters. In the crowd, roaring above the rest, was the Portland Lesbian Choir and Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. Bridges was comprised of members of both (hence our name). We had originally been an auditioned subgroup – members had to already be singers in either PLC or PGMC to join. We had since become an independent chorus, but our members still sang in one or the other of our parent choruses. We were determined to do our parents proud.

Boettcher is one of the finest chorally-acoustic halls I’ve ever sung in. Several times during our set, we spread out across the stage, in our usual mixed formation, clearly able to hear each other. But for our final number, our Shooting Star finale, we bunched close together on the risers, leaning in toward the audience. A starting note. And then…

Shooting Star

Author: reidpdx

I am an honorary lesbian transman, married to a woman, singing baritone in the Portland Gay Men's Chorus. All me, all the time.

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