SING PROUD: At Friday night's debut concert by the Reveille Gay Men's Chorus, the opening number will be a song called "Diversity."
Written by Scott Henderson of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, the song is an anthem of sorts for Reveille, for a couple of reasons. It suggests the diversity of the music the chorus intends to perform--"classical to jazz to popular," says David Hoffman, a Reveille singer, co-founder and board president. And its theme also resonates with the multifaceted image of gay men the chorus wants to project.
"We'll be changing people's impressions of who gay men are," Hoffman says. "Our sexuality is just another aspect of our lives. We're a damn good professional arts organization. We're comprised of people who want to pursue professional standards."
Leading the way to those high standards, Hoffman says, is the group's artistic director, James Gall, a doctoral candidate in music at the UA. After a rigorous series of auditions, Gall has assembled a 22-voice chorus. Some of the new members are serious professional singers, including one or two with master's degrees in voice. The others represent a range of backgrounds. Hoffman is a graphic designer for an architectural firm, but he's put in his time with local theatres, including One in Ten and a.k.a. Other Reveille singers are "social workers, warehouse workers, travel agents and college T.A.'s (teaching assistants)."
Hoffman credits Gall with shaping this motley group into a polished chorus, noting, "Jim has been able to take my voice and shape it." Since March the singers have been rehearsing a demanding repertoire, which includes Schubert and Brahms songs in German, an Aaron Copland piece, "Zion's Walls," and a poem of Robert Frost's, "The Pasture," set to music by Randall Thompson. These toney works will open up the concert Friday at the Southwest Center for Music.
In the second half, Hoffman says, the chorus will let loose with lighter pieces that are "a little more fun, more of a Whitman's sampler." Highlights will include the Motown classic "My Guy," a Broadway show-tune medley arranged by Gall, a parody of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and even Elvis Presley's "I Just Want to Be Your Teddy Bear."
"We want people to walk away saying, 'I heard German. I heard Elvis,' " Hoffman says. "That will make an impression."
The new group, which intends to produce three concerts a year, will probably sign on more members after the first show. Straight men are welcome to audition, Hoffman says. Reveille is part of a national movement of gay and lesbian choruses operating under the umbrella organization GALA Choruses. Hoffman and several of the other Reveille founders used to sing with Desert Voices, Tucson's gay and lesbian community chorus. He says the Reveille founders decided to move on to their own group in part after they had the chance to sing with the Grand Canyon Men's Chorale, a gay men's chorus in Phoenix.
"We were inspired by the camaraderie and the type of music they sang," he says. "Part of the draw also was the gay men's chorus movement around the country. The Seattle Men's Chorus is the premiere chorus of Washington. It's probably the most well-known of the organizations. They have incredible talent. They did a PBS special about six months ago, Swelegant Elegance, of Cole Porter music."
Other well-known gay choruses are the New York Men's Chorus and the Turtle Creek Chorale of Dallas. The choruses offer a sense of community to gay men, Hoffman says, enriched by the "atmosphere of creating. It's a wonderful way of belonging. Every community needs their nightclubs, their bar scene. But that's the only thing people coming out see or hear about. This gives them something else."
The Seattle chorus, Hoffman adds, has had the kind of crossover success Reveille hopes to achieve, with tickets a hot commodity among gays and straights alike. Hoffman knows well from his experience with One in Ten Theatre that gay and lesbian-identified art groups don't always make that transition easily. But plays are trickier than music.
"Music is something that anyone and everyone can relate to," he says. "Music is universal.
"Confrontational attempts at integrating gays into society can have as much a negative as a positive impression. We have more of a chance of reaching people through music.
"We want to be recognized first and foremost as a professional arts organization. The other benefits will follow."
The Reveille Gay Men's Chorus will present its debut concert, Premiere, at 8 p.m., Friday, June 2, at the Southwest Center for Music, 2175 N. Sixth Ave. Tickets are available at Antigone Books, Tucson Trunk and Hydra Leather & More. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. For reservations or for more information call 292-9295.
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