Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Reverend's Preview: Awards Give Voice to Our Community


Artwork by David Kawena

 

Many of us, myself included, prefer singing in the shower to singing on stage in front of hundreds of people. Fortunately, the 270 active members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) have no such fear, especially when it comes to using music to support voice-less and even bullied LGBTQ youth.


GMCLA's 6th annual Voice Awards gala will be held on May 20th at the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles. Featuring a silent auction along with incredible musical performances, the event benefits the chorus's youth outreach initiatives including the Alive Music Project and the "it gets better" Tour. Attendees include a diverse audience of over 700 guests ranging from corporate, entertainment industry and business executives to celebrity friends and noted philanthropists. The gala has raised $1.5 million since 2012 and hopes to add significantly more this year.


Founded in 1979, GMCLA has grown to be one of the largest all-male choral organizations in the United States. It has also become one of the largest LGBT advocacy organizations in the world, boasting a diverse and inter-generational membership. Now under the leadership of new executive director Jonathan Weedman, GMCLA "has a deep history of service within the LGBT community, singing at countless memorials, making and commissioning music that helps the community to mourn, to celebrate, to dream, and to prepare for victory" over social and political forces that still oppose LGBT equality. The chorus's members donate over 60,000 volunteer hours annually to make GMCLA’s mission of musical excellence and community partnership a reality.

The annual Voice Awards honor those who, according to their press release, "advance our world, refute silence, lend a voice to the oppressed, exhibit leadership and give hope to those living under the weight of silence." 2017 Community Leader Voice Award will be presented to Gwen Baba, who has a long history of involvement with both the Human Rights Campaign and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, while the Visionary Voice Award will go to the Logo TV channel.

Renowned composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz will be the recipient of the 2017 Vanguard Voice Award. Schwartz has written the scores for such popular stage hits as Wicked, Pippin and Godspell. He won Academy Awards for the animated films Pocahontas and The Prince of Egypt, and received additional nominations for Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Enchanted.


"I'm very proud to be receiving the GMCLA Vanguard Voice Award," Schwartz told this writer via email. "I had a wonderful experience with the chorus when they performed my choral piece Testimony, which is based on interviews for the "it gets better" project, and it meant a lot to me when they brought performances of that piece into schools around the country. It's not easy for writers to have a social impact, but organizations such as the GMCLA help make that possible."

Indeed, GMCLA operates two innovative community projects that offer education and outreach to over 50,000 middle and high school youth in our public school system. The Alive Music Project is a music education and outreach program focused on LA-area middle and high schools. It will be expanding this year to incarcerated youth throughout Los Angeles. The "it gets better" Tour, meanwhile, educates youth and reduces incidences of bullying and violence across the US where over 85% of LGBT students are physically or verbally abused each year. In addition, GMCLA supports the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, an organization with the mission "to fiercely empower trans and gender-expansive people to love their voices and perform with courage and strength."

Support of the Voice Awards helps GMCLA fund its general operations and continue offering these very important programs.

To purchase Voice Awards tickets or sponsorships or for additional information, visit the GMCLA website.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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