Wednesday, July 6, 2016
July 6, 2016
Fan blowing against my right ear. Still drowsy from my late morning nap. Sat for a while at High Five and watched the families with their babies and their dogs, felt for a while bitterly alone. Finished, I think, the tiger play.
Did not haul my computer to Denver, assuming–correctly–that I wouldn’t want to take the time to record on it. Therefore much is lost, but perhaps nothing that should not have been. Many thousands of gay men and women crowded in the space around the Denver performing arts center. It was exciting and unnatural, like the Castro or the West Village in their days. After a rather sobering rehearsal (we had lunched ourselves into a stupor, so let’s blame that) we sang, in the end, spectacularly. As far as tone, sheer depth of musicianship, we were among the best there. We were, however, very small– I’d guess nearly the smallest group from the smallest municipality represented– and the epic theatricality achieved by some of the groups was beyond us. I heard more choral music than is good for a man in so brief a period. Some of it was memorably bad. Much of it was quite good, and the New York Gay Men’s Chorus, a women’s group called Muse, Knoxville, and a tiny Cuban foursome called Mano e Mano stand out in aural memory. However bad I might be at keeping friends, I am good at making them, and fell into conversations with men and women from every corner of North America. A group arrived from Beijing, and I was proud of the assembled throng for the warm welcome we gave them, applauding wildly even for the boy who played the pitches.
Many of the groups had surprisingly weak (or under-utilized) bass sections.
Cantaria split into fluid but predictable cadres– mine was DJ, Amy, Jack, Leland, sometimes Steve and Tommy. We met, we joined, we split like amoebae onto our various paths.
What stands out for me about our performance was how happy I was, suddenly and for the half hour of our gig. I wanted to sing for everybody in the world. I wanted to sing and do nothing but that. I was very happy. I know I was grinning from ear to ear.
Intense situations such as GALA invite one to compare one’s life and perceptions to those of those around. I realized that as an artist I’m all about the art. Sacrifice to get it right, get it right, if you don’t get it right, don’t do it in public. That was not the general mood, which was rather one of the celebration of participation. We are a generation which gives out trophies for participation, and perhaps this was an effect of that. Self-congratulation overwhelmed all other moods, and from the accolades it seemed that this was exactly right. Praise me for standing here singing, me myself, just as I am, proud and empowered. I realized I was not getting it, that I sort of understood, but couldn’t stop thinking that the point of making art is to make great art, and if you’re doing it to please yourself that is hugely well, but maybe it also should be private. Most of the sessions were to some degree self-referential: the universe ground me down, but here I am, lifting up my voice. Especially the women, for reasons one understands. I couldn’t go there. Art refers to the self, of course, but, I think, as an example, a stone to lift off from almost immediately into the empyrean. Probably there are other festivals that do that. GALA is all about wonderful me having the courage to sing my wonderful song, the results be damned. The words sound mocking, but I don’t mean them to be. I mostly wondered at myself, how I had to work so hard to get into the frame of mind that seemed the default to those around me. I wanted to say, “We were oppressed. It’s OK to make that point. We are oppressed. It’s OK to make that point, but now move forward. Be the full human you resented the world for not letting you be.” I have the same emotion when I go to see “Gay Theater.” No, it is not really an act of ultimate courage to “come out” anymore. Get on to something the spirit can use.
One spectacular night we heard new pieces in the Convention Center (which Trump had just vacated). Some were world premiers; some were just new to me. Naked Man and the Broadway style oratorio I Am Harvey Milk were magnificent, and all the more so hearing 600 men sing them. It was quite awesome, tsunamic, an event that satisfied the artist in me as well as the activist.
Emails began to go about warning us from “inappropriate behavior” in public spaces in the hotels.
Getting home was a tribulation. A visit in one day by thunderstorms and President Obama to Charlotte led to a cascade of airline delays and cancellations. We were home by midnight, after my foul mood had almost exhausted itself. Saw in the dimness my butchered garden, sighed.
Sleeping on the plane I had a dream of a great strip of forest stretching over rolling farmlands. In the middle of this forest was a table at which an Amazonian Indian sat, plucking threads one by one out of a piece of brightly woven native cloth. Ann Dunn sat beside him, interpreting the threads a he drew them out. She was the oracle of the oddly symmetrical woods. I don’t remember what question I asked, I think I was there more as a reporter or observer.
Returned to the Y, late enough to do the geriatric aerobics.