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Jul. 20th, 2006


lanceinmn

Three Stories


1. At Jackson 2 older guys stood up at almost the last moment in Marry Us and during the meet and greet they came up to me and gave me a HUGE hug. I told them it was great to be singing in Jackson and how happy I was to see they enjoyed the concert. 1 of they guys said that up until that point they were roommates for 22 years and they now will refer to each other as partners it was their coming out time after 22 years together our concert and our courage helped them come out and be true to them selves.

2. Nashville. Per Sally the stage door security guard ( for 17 years) our concert is the only one that she can think of that all exterior doors were locked and the house staff came in to the hall to hear us sing. Of all of the famous people that have sang there we were the ones they wanted to hear in person. Per Glenn O she also could not believe that this was not our full time job that we did this voluntarily.

3. Birmingham Al Green was talking with 2 guys and a little old lady was quite smitten with Al and the little lady was a Episcopal minister at a local church I relayed the story about New Orleans and the trouble we had with the 1st church stating that if we took out the "G" word we could sing there and then another church allowed us to sing in her parish. The lady thought a moment and said she knew who turned us down and would call her 1st thing in the morning and tell her how unchristian is was of her to turn us down when we were coming there to help the community. When we arrived in New Orleans I asked the minister if she received a call from the lady in Birmingham and she said yes she had so she was prepared with tissue and a sense of peace that she had opened up her doors and let light shine in.

Daniel Hennagir
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lanceinmn

Day by Day Travelogue


This six-part travelogue of the Southern Tour was kept by Gary Peterson (garypetersonmn@aol.com), partner of 2nd tenor James Davies. He emailed the segments to his friends, relatives, and colleagues.


(1) "GAY MEN AT THE GRAND OLE OPRY"
EMAILED:
NASHVILLE TN - MON, JUL 10, 2006 - 01:27AM

This is a great country.

One of several, sustained rounds of applause at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium Sunday night erupted after Joanne Usher, executive director of the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, noted the occasion as the first time a gay organization had performed from the stage of the historic home of America's Grand Ole Opry.

The mostly gay audience lept to its feet with an enthusiasm that appeared to stun most TCGMC members on stage. For the locals, this event brings them into the mainstream of their hometown.

Known for the plethora of historical music stars who have graced its stage for decades, Ryman Auditorium is known as the Mother Church of country music. It has earned its place in America's story by being the people's stage -- and it continued to add to the legitimacy of the claim with Sunday night's performance.

Nashville was the first of five performance stops on the TCGMC's "Great Southern Sing Out Tour."

One hundred two members of the 150 member chorus are traveling for nine days, along with about 24 TCGMC staff, friends, and partners.

One of several emotional highlights of Sunday evening's performance was the rendition of Robert Seeley's "Marry Us" -- during which partners of Chorus members joined them on the historic stage (don't worry, mom, I wore my Sunday best).

The best was saved for last, however, with a fabulous version of "We Shall Overcome" followed by the TCGMC signature song, "Walk Hand In Hand." No one -- least of all Music Director Stan Hill -- will ever forget it.

Excitement about the performance had been building among the singers for months, weeks, days, and hours leading up to Sunday's performance. Few, if any, avoided feelings of humility about their presence on sacred ground -- how would you feel, for example, being assigned to Minnie Pearl's dressing room?!

Nashville has been nothing but friendly. We arrived here in two batches on Saturday morning and afternoon.

Activities have included the "Nash Trash Tour" (an entire article by itself), visits to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Parthenon, and a Saturday evening reception at Tribe.

This morning, James Davies and I visited Christ Church Cathedral for divine services.

Beneficiaries of the Nashville performance will be Nashville In Harmony, a two-year old choral group,
and the Tennessee Equality Project.

Tennessee voters will decide this November whether to amend their constitution to prohibit gay marriage. The good news is that here -- in the home of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist -- voters favor legal protections for gays by a 60/40% margin, while 60% oppose marriage. More than 40% oppose amending the constitution, however. It takes a majority of
all those voting in this November's governor's race to pass a constitutional amendment. If it fails, the issue cannot resurface for four more years.

In just two days -- so many stories, sights, and sounds, including that of the 81-year-old man on the plane next to me from Detroit. He lives in Warren MI and fought at D-Day and through nine European countries before returning home and pursuing his American Dream. But, there is not enough time for that right now.

In eight hours, we are "on the bus" headed to Birmingham, and Monday night's performance at the University of Alabama.

For those interested, members of the Chorus are entering their reports of the trip in the TCGMC blog:
http://community.livejournal.com/tcgmc


(2) "BIRMINGHAM ... VENUES, AUDIENCES AND POLITICS"
EMAILED:
BIRMINGHAM AL - TUE, JUL 11, 2006 - 7:58AM

Whoever she was, and whatever else she accomplished in her life, Alys Stephens was the woman behind creation of the Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts and the Jemison Concert Hall in Birmingham. This means she probably paid for a good chunk of it.

It is among the most beautiful performance complexes in the United States, and the Jemison is one of the most acoustically exacting spaces for choral music. Alys's life-size portrait hangs in the entry. Garrison Keillor, Diavolo Dance Theater, and River North Dance will grace the center's stages in 2006-07.

The scene at Monday night's continuation of the Great Southern Sing-Out Tour by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus was another of high emotion for artists and audiences.

The guys are starting to hit their stride as the rhythm of the tour develops and sinks into their bones.

Yesterday's drive from Nashville to Birmingham was uneventful -- save for the truckstop in Decatur that was overrun by occupants of three motor coaches stopping for lunch.

Birmingham, the Pittsburgh of the South, is an old industrial city shaped by the steel mills fed by underground limestone and iron ore. From his perch atop Red Mountain, the Vulcan (the largest cast metal statue in the world) watches over the city with -- for some inexplicable reason -- his butt hanging out of his tunic. This of course required all three buses to climb the mountain for a 30-minute photo op.

Last night's audience was, to say it mildly, enthused. And moved. The music resonates, particularly when you have never heard any of it before. "Marry Us" received a mid-concert standing-O.

"Not In Our Town," possibly the most powerful piece -- and this contention has strong competition -- related the 1993 incident in Billings MT when the Ku Klux Klan announced its presence. A cinder block was thrown through the bedroom window
of a small Jewish boy who had placed a menorah there. Although not 100 Jews lived in Billings, thousands of menorahs appeared in windows of homes and businesses all over the city. (You can Google for the details.)

Two groupies from Nashville drove down for last night's show.

There is a Baptist convention here at the Sheraton Hotel, making for a few interesting moments in the elevators and other public spaces.

We head in an hour for Jackson MS for tonight's concert at the Municipal Auditorium.

As I gaze at the countryside, my thoughts are with my mother in Minnesota who, on Sunday, kicked off her campaign for the Minnesota Legislature. She is the Democratic endorsed candidate for State House District 19A in the Monticello area. Check out her website at http://www.grandmamillie.com.

Onward...


(3) "MUSINGS ON THE ROAD FROM BIRMINGHAM"
EMAILED:
JACKSON MS - TUE, JUL 11, 2006 - 5:29PM

An enduring conundrum for artistic directors may be found in the differing expectations that audiences bring to performances about the proper mix of high- and low-brow art.

This tour is not all about lifting people up and promoting social change. Some attendees take the music seriously as music.

This morning's Birmingham News carried Michael Huebner's music review under the headline "Message from chorus is it's ok to be gay." Huebner gave four out of five stars for last night's performance to "a taut group with power and precision." [www.bhamnews.com]

I learned about touring in the summer and fall of 1970, when traveling Minnesota's parade and county fair circuit with Hubert Humphrey's Senate campaign. Us minions drove VW microbuses around the state while the candidate flew by helicopter or plane. (It remains true today that to generate an instant crowd anywhere, all you have to do is land a helicopter in any clearing.)

Most of my touring in recent years has been with dancers, and then only with nine or 10 other people. We have sent them to more than 300 venues, but never with the logistics of moving 130 people across four states this week.

Planning by this largely volunteer organization, TCGMC, started two years ago, and staff members made a phantom foray along the route in March.

Tour Coordinator Jeff Brand is an icon of effective organization. Had he been in charge of our Iraq adventures, the enemies of freedom would have been defeated and the troops returned home years ago. Our arrivals and departures all happen
within five minutes of schedule.

Captains of our three buses -- Southern Belle, Magnolia Express and Delta Queen -- hand out donuts and candy (the Twizzlers just came by), collect trash, and tell jokes. James Davies and I are on Magnolia, the "quiet bus," chosen for reasons of age and temperament.

Tall, green trees line the Interstates in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, not unlike northern Minnesota in summer. Today's 240-mile jaunt along I-20/59 is the longest segment of the week; more than yesterday's 183 and less than tomorrow's 140.

It's called "hump day," falling in the middle of the five performances. In other words, everyone needs to conserve and renew energies in order to go the distance.

Just after crossing the Mississippi line at 11am this morning, for about 1,500 yards it seemed as though my worst stereotype about the state was true -- that of a snake-infested swamp. The landscape quickly improved, however.

At our lunchstop in Meridian, we talked about how Jackson was never on any of our lists for a visit or vacation -- certainly not in July. But here we are.

There are many reasons why the TCGMC took on this tour. Not being a member, I won't get into their thinking.

Why did I come? First, because I have never been down here. It's also vacation time, and it was a chance to spend time with James Davies. Life has been so relentlessly busy for both of us for too many years. Certainly, I have been mindful of analogies to the civil rights activities of the 50s and 60s, but those were not romantic draws for me.

There are forces abroad in our land that are trying to claim our patriotism, our country, its flag, and its ideals as their exclusive, private property. They use the tools of language and symbol all too well to serve their own crass and selfish ends. They care not who they hurt in the process.

They hide behind symbols and words about "family," "decency," and "Christianity," to hide their efforts to divide and conquer in exchange for 10¢ worth of power. That 10¢ goes a long way.

We need to meet them word-for-word and symbol-for-symbol.

Two younger men stopped by our lobby table in Birmingham last night. They fear for their jobs and cannot tell friends along this route about the performances.

Of course, we have fearful people in Minnesota, and we can find as many wackos in the woods of northern Wisconsin as we can here.

We have arrived in Jackson. About 184,000 people live here, the largest city in the state.


(4) "JACKSON: JEERS, TEARS, AND MANY CHEERS"
EMAILED:
MOBILE AL - WED, JUL 12, 2006 - 4:25PM

Jesus told us to feed the hungry.

Last night's TCGMC audience in Jackson, Mississippi, was famished. Although our boys looked a touch tired on stage, they acted and sounded anything but as they served a stirring and satiating soulfood.

The audience appeared younger than those in Nashville (Sun.) and Birmingham (Mon.). Individuals later attributed their somewhat reticent responses to not knowing how to act.

"We've never seen or heard anything like this before!"

Invited to stand in place and have their relationships recognized, it took until the last 15 seconds of "Marry Us" before a few dozen couples dared to do so.

This audience, including an 80-something-year-old man, also probably did the most silent weeping throughout the evening.

The first two protesters of the tour, one with a bullhorn, appeared outside the Thalia Mara Hall in downtown Jackson and maintained a vigil all evening. Police restricted them to the sidewalk and away from the city-owned hall. A security guard
was posted at the back door, and doors were locked during the concert. After the show, several performers went out to confront the two with song: "We shall overcome!"

We sold as many TCGMC CDs in Jackson as were sold in Nashville and Birmingham combined.

Following the show, Thalia Mara's eight unionized stage crew members donated their labor for the day -- worth $1,200.

Also after the show, a recently-widowed woman offered to write a check to launch a new, Jackson Gay Men's Chorus, and pledged to support it for five years. I am told that she actually wrote the check. She reportedly told a Chorus member, "Every straight person in Jackson should have been here tonight!"

If you have checked TCGMC's web site, you may have noted the story about bass singer Richard Long. When serving in the Air Force in Biloxi in 1965, he was not allowed to join his Caucasian colleagues on the Gulf beaches. Richard has been across the aisle of our Magnolia Express for three days, and tomorrow we are stopping at the Biloxi beach where he will walk and dip a toe in the water.

Last night, a former Biloxi resident sought him out and offered her personal apology for 1965.

During the Civil War, the Union General, William Sherman, burned Jackson three times.

The ornate and monumental state capitol building in downtown stands as a solid testament to the principle of self-government.

Dake Dorris, a Magnolia passenger, served as "City Ambassador" for Jackson activities. As a native of Mississippi, it has been interesting to have his insights about the state and descriptions of the unfamiliar flora.

If this tour was a fashion photo shoot, then Jackson was the "money shot." It would have made the whole trip worthwhile.

TCGMC is a great group of people, doing their best to look after each other. One has spent two free afternoons laundering tuxedo shirts. Another has devoted two days of bus riding to patching and stitching rips and tears.

We lunched in Hattiesburg today. The caravan's arrival in Mobile a short time ago was filmed by a television crew for the evening news, with singing filling the hotel lobby.

The local partner, Bay Area Inclusion has put out the word, which also has spread from earlier stops. Let's see what tonight brings.

If you know people in New Orleans, let them know "curtain time" is 7:30 Friday night, at St. Andrew Episcopal Church, 1301 S. Carrollton Avenue. Admission is free, with a nominal donation of $15 requested. If $15 is a problem, have them ask for me at the door and I will pay their way.


(5) "BILOXI: YOU RAISE ME UP"
EMAILED:
NEW ORLEANS - THU, JUL 13, 2006 - 5:31PM

They formed a tight circle on the white beach sands of Biloxi, Mississippi. In the center stood Richard Long, 61, and words written for the occasion by a black woman in Minneapolis were read.

They formed-up in two facing columns, two-deep, perpendicular to the Gulf of Mexico shoreline.

Between the columns, they unrolled a white fabric runner leading to the water.

As Richard was led through the columns, they joined hands and sang their signature, "Walk hand in hand with me."

Stepping into the Gulf of Mexico, Richard was surrounded by more than 100 brothers singing, "We shall overcome."

No dry eyes on Biloxi's waterfront.

Several of those present were not born in 1965 when Richard was stationed nearby at the Keesler Air Force Base. Black people were not welcome on the Gulf beaches in those days. The power of the federal government, represented by 17,000
soldiers, was no match for the power of attitude in Biloxi, Mississippi.

A reporter-with-camera from the local newspaper was present to record the scene, as were the archival cameras hired by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus to follow their tour of four Southern states.

The day started with a 90-minute bus tour of Mobile, Alabama, narrated by three community volunteers.

Our Magnolia Express bus had the gracious stories of Linda, who told us "You can say anything you want about somebody in the South if you finish with the words, 'Bless their heart!'"

The City of Mobile (pop. 250,000) is built on a swamp, Mobillians claim to have started Mardi Gras with the arrival of the French in 1702. That other city, further west, did not start its Mardi Gras until "missionaries" arrived there from Mobile in 1850.

Live oak trees, 150-200 years old, are everywhere throughout the city. Unlike some people, they are protected by law, and cannot be trimmed in the slightest.

Mobile receives the highest annual rainfall of any urban city in the continental U.S., operates the 15th largest port, and provides 24% of the nation's seafood.

Mobile Bay is only 3-to-10 feet deep in all of its 30-mile stretch to the Gulf.

TCGMC's Mobile partner, Bay Area Inclusion, was exceedingly well organized, and obtained full underwriting for the performance. They feted all of us handsomely afterward, and many went clubbing with some of the guys until the wee hours.

The only hitch in the proceedings occurred when the air conditioning in Bishop State Community College went out yesterday afternoon. Fans were on, wool tuxedos were dispensed with, and artists and audience got "pitty" together.

Seven Mobile police officers volunteered their services for security on their day off, and one of them gave his phone number to one of the soloists.

The three bus drivers who have been with us all week attended for the first time and said they enjoyed themselves a great deal. Their previous gigs have included multi-state transport for at least one George Bush campaign.

Driving along the Gulf Coast today, and into New Orleans, was a sorrowful, sobering experience of disbelief. It is as bad -- and then some -- as the pictures on television.

We have a few hours before starting the pub crawl to hand out publicity for tomorrow night's performance. And -- best news -- we don't have to be checked-out and on a bus by 9am in the morning.

Time to see this city, up close, on foot.

"You raise me up so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on your shoulders.
You raise me up to more than I can be."

-- Act 1, TCGMC, Great Southern Sing Out Tour


(6) "NEW ORLEANS: CODA AND CAPO"
EMAILED:
NEW ORLEANS - SAT, JUL 15, 2006 - 8:40AM

Six summers ago, my brother and I wept in each other's arms in Dodge City, Kansas.

We were parting at the end of a journey where we had found our grandfather's roots, roots that extended back to Delaware and the first Peterson's arrival around 1638.

Our lives had been changed on the hot plains of southwest Kansas, and we wanted to hold on and savor the grace of the moment.

Different ones had tears at the end of last night's performance at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in New Orleans.

We all wanted to hold on.

Yet, it is time for this tour to end. As someone remarked, “It feels like we've been down here forever!”

In five minutes, a third of our group will leave for the airport and Minnesota. The rest of us will follow tomorrow.

Finding a New Orleans venue - any kind of venue - had been problematic until very recently. Fifteen churches had said “no” before The Rev. Susan Gaumer at St. Andrew's said, “Yes, of course.”

Afterwards, Susan told James Davies that it all came together for her with a single image: 102 singers massed beneath a 16-foot figure of a resurrected Christ, arms raised in blessing.

In many ways, this was the best performance even though the venue imposed technical limitations.

In one of the week's countless sweet moments, the mother of tenor Michael Lahr flew down to hear his solo in “Michael's Letter to Mama,” by Armistead Maupin.

Several other Minnesotans joined us for the finale.

Acts of creation are acts of faith. This is what gives the arts their intrinsic value.

Some of us are called to create human life. All of us are called to live life daily.

In an interview on the bus on Thursday, Richard Long observed that “When a part of you is smothered, a part of you dies.”

Large portions of New Orleans were smothered, and much of it will die. Many people who left will never return. Those who remain have a hard journey.

However, I feel no guilt about our boutique hotel digs in the French Quarter: we are bringing much needed cold cash to a place that will need tons of it for decades.

The city will grow again. What was not broken will be stronger.

The Great Southern Sing Out Tour has been eight days of collective worship, of living life daily. The grace of the moment, the faces, names, and places, will abide with us always.
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Jul. 18th, 2006


lanceinmn

Tour in the News

The Great Southern Sing-Out Tour did make the news in several of the cities we performed in. The story of the Richard Long's delayed walk on the Biloxi beach is chronicled in southern Mississippi's Sun Herald. Denied access to the then segregated beach when he was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in 1965 and 1966, Richard took his first steps on the beach in Biloxi and dipped his toes in the gulf waters.

  • Feature article in Church Street Freedom Press (Nashville) on July 6.
  • Preview article that appeared in the Birmingham News on Sunday July 9.
  • Review that appeared in the Birmingham News on Tuesday July 11.
  • WPMI Channel 15 (NBC affiliate) aired a terrific segment on the 5PM News on Saturday July 15 . If you go to this page and then enter "Gay Men's Chorus" in the search field it will pull up the video to watch.

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Jul. 17th, 2006

Trashy Diva

humpycub

Sing Out Brothers!

Okay I know it is a few days late! But trying to track downa laptop that wasnt otherwise occupied after killing the battery on the bus was rough! Enjoy!

Today is Wednesday July 12 and we are on the bus on the way to Mobile… Sorry have been way busy and haven’t had a chance to get anything out thus far…

Geez where to begin! HMM it all started August 22 1966 Oh wait a minute that’s for a different blog..

We left Mpls on Sat July 8th and arrived in Nashville in the early afternoon found the busses after waiting for what seemed like an eternity for our Luggage Go NW! But really was only about 30 minutes! What do you expect from 100 HOMEOSEXUALS waiting for their steamer trunks to arrive! We got the luggage and were met by our one and Only JEFF Brand who corralled us and got us on the busses WOOHOO! That’s no easy feat to undertake however Jeff in his Cowboy attire pulled out the whip and got our attention! We found the busses with all the guys in tow.

Hotel arrival was a great experience as the first crew the 6amer’s where already at the hotel and awaiting with cocktails in hand for the rest of us to arrive. We found our rooms and the Games began!

Jeff had found us a great spot just on the outskirts of the Homo district. (Bars within walking distance for this crowd what was he thinking?) There was a bar called “BLUE GENE” next to that was an awesome bookstore called “OUTLOUD” (let me tell you the worker there met all 140 of us by the end of the day or so they thought!) continuing on the Church street tour we headed a few more blocks to “PLAY” and then to where our evening social would take place called “TRIBE” and what a great bar that was, unfortunalty, that was the extent of the Nashville Homo district. We did find out that there was another bar called “THE CHUTE COMPLEX” that was not in walking distance so back to the Hotel we headed.

The group decided it was time to indulge in some Nashvillian style BBQ and found a great little BBQ joint called “LONNIES” just out the back door of the hotel. WOW! The BBQ was phenomenal! There was one guy “David” who was working the joint, (he wasn’t so bad either!) wasn’t sure what to make of 30 of us descending upon him like a pack of starving Lions stalking there prey. After all being totally satiated or for the most part anyway we decided it was time to head tot he hotel for the Disco naps as it was almost 7:30 and the Tribe social was to start at 8pm and you know it takes some of these Girls hours to primp!

The social was a smash success at Tribe! Right down to the hottie bartender (HEATH yes like the candy bar) taking his clothes of for us! (okay it was just his shirt or was it? Inquiring minds want to know. HMMMM) Many of the TCGMCr’s had some rather tasty morsels at the restaurant “RED” attached to Tribe.

Now on to the evenings performance at THE CHUTE. Our Own Paul Brekke the “MISTRESS VICTORIA” was invited to be the Special Guest Entertainer of the evening at “THE CHUTE”, joining her in the show was the effervescent and down right nasty “BIANCA PAIGE” the MC of the show, also performing were a multitude of other fun entertainers. Enuff of the intros on to Mistress Victoria! Let’s just say her first choice of numbers was a fabulous rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U with a photo soon to be shredded of the Incomprehensible George W. Bush. Moving on to “Bianca” and her fun antics with none other than our own Board President “ORA RHINE” who so innocently let it slip she was the only HETERO sexual in the room! (Okay the only one noticeably jumping up and down when asked how many str8s abound!) Well it went from there, I think many of us found out that Ora has a sense of Humor like no other str8 woman we know. On to Mistress Victoria’s 2nd number. “Erotica” and let me tell you if you weren’t a smoker before hand you sure needed a cigarette afterward! (Thanks to our bretheren Andy, Virat, Bobbie, Tim and Joe and about 5 gallons of HOT WAX!) I have seen porn the was less erotically suggestive than what these boys pulled off. And I will tell you the Cabaret at CHUTE will never experience the sheer brilliance and magnitude of such a grand performance again or for some time to cum anyway.

On to me Okay that’s a more personal note, you have questions just ask me about all those memories in my mind. Or wait fir the Video release party) Cum on now you think I would kiss and tell! HAHAHA!



Day 2 Nashville

We woke up some of us in our rooms some not! (NUFF SAID) and went to the lobby of the hotel to meet Miss Jean for a fabulous continental breakfast, and story telling session from the night before! And the stories of the night before got those hotel lobbies windows quite steamed! At 9am the first “NASH TRASH TOUR” group got ready to head out! And we learned we had some other Drag wanna bees in our midst! Our Own “RON BOLDT” appeared in her Hot Pink Cowboy hat and Striking Platinum Blonde wig and of course her fabulous studded glasses to complete the ensemble. She was fantastic! (I do have a feeling she will appear again sometime in the future! Can we say Fall Talent Show!) The one thing Her partner “TOM MICHEALS” could say is “he wasn’t like this before he got involved in the chorus!” They were on there way and what was a chorus widow to do but take a stranded chorine to TARGET woohoo shopping! Tom thank you so much for hanging with me in the morning. (Now you to know what it’s like to be a chorus widow on the road! As well as at home!) Remember this, that is how I got my start with the chorus!

The rest of the day until 5pm was pretty much a free for all, many headed out for some fun in the city some went back to Church street go figure! (I on the other hand was a good boy and went directly to my room! Yeah as if!) Some went shopping, some went walking, some went to the Parthenon (Which was fabulous by the way) and some just stayed at the Hotel and Ironed all day in the Sweat shop laundry facilities of the lobby thanks to “TERRY SWEETING’S” brilliant idea of setting up shop in the lobby!

Then off to the Show! Ryman Auditorium “Grand Ole Opry” with “NASHVILLE in HARMONY” I knew tonight would be a great concert, because on the way to the hall “PAPA” David Anderson city Ambassador for Nashville was talking to us about singing on “Hallowed Ground” and the tears starting flowing already. (Yeah I know what you are saying No Kevin not you? But really I did!) We got to the Ryman and watched an 8 minute video of the history of the Ryman and many of us were in AWE of the building itself. We got to meet with Nashville in Harmony and figured out what our evening would be like! (At one point Tom Michaels and I found each other in a bonding moment in the middle of the auditorium fully tearing up and I found out there is now a RIVER 3 in the rankings!) The concert went off as expected ! It was an INCREDIBLE experience and how AWESOME it is to go down in the History books as being the FIRST ever GLBT group to have ever dawned the stage of the Ryman Auditorium…
After the show Nashville in Harmony had a social for us in Downtown Nashville at the former Federal Reserve building. The rest of the night was a free night and many of the boys found there own things to do. (Of course I again was a good boy and went directly to bed.)

All the way home everyone on the buses kept chanting The wheels go round and round at 9am!

DAY 3 BIRMINGHAM

The bus trip to Birmingham was fun as we pulled out Wallace and Gromit and just laughed and laughed at the antics! We stopped at the “VULCAN” Statue in Birmingham for an incredible photo op moment! And of course to see his butt! The view was spectacular and the city was beautiful as well! We took many pics of the entire group under the Vulcan but! On to the Hotel! The Sheraton Birmingham in downtown Birmingham. Great hotel and awesome beds. We all needed our sleep you know! Pretty much everyone was in the Hotel for the day either making Homo stew in the Hot tub or brewing something in the Sauna or at one point there were oh 25 people in the Health club facilities! Now onto the Concert “THE ALYS STEPHENS HALL”. Stan’s quote I believe was something such as “Birmingham we would like to thank you all for coming out tonight, and tomorrow when we leave town and you find out there is a big hole here on campus just know the hall is going with us!”

Jul. 16th, 2006


lanceinmn

Family's Road Towards Acceptance In Jackson

by Steve Humerickhouse

It wasn't easy for me to invite my mother to our concert in Jackson, MS. I didn't think she would want to go and the trip from Memphis would be a long way for her. I was surprised when she said yes...but I was uncertain how to get her there. Since my father died last year she hasn't gotten out much and never could have driven the three and a half hours to Jackson. I was certain my brother would not consent to taking her so I never even thought about asking him. But my mother did ask him and he said he would take her to Jackson as a birthday present.

As we were leaving Birmingham for Mississippi my mother called. She said they weren't going to make that night's concert after all. Michael was now refusing to take her. Somehow he hadn't realized we were a GAY chorus. Since I had only come out to my family at my father's funeral the year before (when my partner arrived to support me), we hadn't talked much about my gay status. It wouldn't be a confortable conversation--my brother is a religious right type who used to vote for Jesse Helms when he lived in North Carolina (while I worked on Paul Wellstone's campaign).

Needless to say I was very upset. I had looked forward (despite trepidation over some of our music) to them both hearing the concert. My mother affirmed that she still wanted to attend and said she would see if she could change Michael's mind. On the bus ride to Jackson I was an emotional mess, very disappointed that perhaps the one and only chance I had for my mother to hear us had faded away. After we arrived at the hotel and settled in I called again. This time she said they were ready to leave. They would attend.

I was very nervous getting ready for the concert. My emotions were on a roller coaster ride from their on again-off again attendance. I checked the audience from the wings to see if I could spot them. There was my mother...but she was sitting alone. Michael wasn't with her. Was he in the restroom? I checked again--still no Michael. Even at intermission he wasn't there. Did she somehow come alone--a woman who sometimes had trouble finding her way to the mall?

When we went out into the audience to sing "Walk Hand in Hand" I was standing right across from Mother. She would look at me and I would have to turn away because otherwise I would break out crying, such was the emotion I was feeling. Afterwards I went up to her. We hugged and sobbed in each others arms.

When I could finally talk I asked her where Michael was. She said he refused to enter the concert hall, that doing so went against the very core of his being. I was shocked, hurt and angry each in turn. Worse, he had left our mother to go alone into the concert with no one she knew around her. I found it hard to believe his homophobia and lack of love went that deep!

Even though attending the concert ended up being traumatic for her (she cried though most of the show), her reaction to it was one of wonder. She said she was deeply moved by our message and the affirmation we show by our singing and our presence on stage. She was so glad she went and wants to attend one of our Christmas concerts.

While I had hoped that by attending the concert Michael would see something different than the stereotype he must hold, not being there wasn't without potential effect. Afterwards, he was in the lobby to meet Mother and take her back to Memphis. At first he stood apart from us. But when chorus members came up to meet Mother (and many did!), I introduced him, too, forcing him to interact with all of us. I hope he saw the true nature of who we are--genuine, caring, loving men who bring truth to people they do not know...and cared enough to welcome my mother and Michael into our family.

Jul. 14th, 2006

651brad

Family full cricle

A post by 2nd tenor Sean.



A little more than five years ago I came out to my mother. It was two days after I graduated from the University of Colorado and my aunts from Upstate New York were in town to celebrate. I hadn’t planned on coming out then, but ended up coming out to mom, dad and both aunts within about ten minutes. I cried. A lot.

Last weekend my mom and the two aunts decided to have a sister’s weekend in Nashville to see our concert at the Ryman. It was the first time my family had come to see a show and when I went to the lobby after the performance to meet them my two aunts hugged me very tight. They said they had cried. A lot. It was very special to have them there. The whole weekend was filled with great memories, and seeing my family after the show is one I will always cherish.

So everyone in my family knew I am gay – except for grandpa. My mom didn’t want me to tell him, and although I wasn’t happy about it, I allowed her to pick the time for him to know because he is her father. I can understand her being a little nervous. Until last year he was a contributor to the NRA and listens to some radio personalities I consider less than gay friendly. But he loves Hillary Clinton as his senator. I don’t know…. Anyways, after the show my aunts were ready to marshal the gay pride parade (they were SO cute) and relayed to me that they had laid down the law and that mom had to tell grandpa about her big gay son when they returned to New York the next day. Mom looked about as nervous as I did five years ago but said she was going to do it.

Monday night mom called. She did it. She was very happy. The first thing grandpa told her was that we’re lucky that we have an amazing family. The next day she called because grandpa wanted to remind me that he sent me a key to his house last December and that I’m welcome over any time. I don’t know what about that concert was the thing that made mom ready to tell him, and I can’t thank the guys in the chorus enough for that moment.

lanceinmn

Mobile, Welcoming, but divisions still exist

After traveling from Jackson to Mobile, I was really looking forward to jump in the pool at the Ashbury hotel. There was a wait to check in, partly because of a convention in town. But as soon as my partner and I received our keys, we dumped everything in our room, threw on our suits and ran down to the pool. We ended up taking over the outdoor pool, bouncing beach balls, and playing chicken. While out at the pool, the power went out not only at the hotel, but the whole block, for more than 30 minutes. Not long enough to lose the effect of the AC.

A television crew was at the hotel, recording us singing, then interviewing our director, Stan Hill, as well as several others involved in organizing the tour. They ran an excellent segment on our tour and the chorus on the 5 o’clock news, just before boarding the bus for our concert venue, the Yvonne Kennedy Auditorium, at the Bishop State Community College. There are lots of beautiful antebellum homes that have been restored, and I enjoyed the scenery and the beautiful old live oak trees bordering and overshadowing the streets. But soon the scenery changed, to the smaller homes built in the 20’s and 30’s, where things were a little more run down. Getting off the bus on the campus , the campus police cars were evident, and we were informed that the police were told of our performance and would have a presence there during the evening.

The concert hall was not air conditioned, due to rolling blackouts, but thankfully they opened a space for us as a changing room that was cool, a black history museum. Although the performance space was not the best, the concert went well and the audience was enthusiastic and grateful. We were able to meet many of the people at a late meal prepared for us after the concert, barbeques and beans and mashed potato salad. Everything was extremely well organized and went smoothly. But one thing struck me at the beginning of the concert. Here we are performing at a black community college, to an all white audience. As someone who grew up in northwest Wisconsin, I don’t really know what segregation issues exist in the south. During our intermission I talked to Dake about it, since he grew up in the south. I wanted to know why, with such a diverse community in Mobile, that our audience was not. Several reasons came up, such as the type of music., and perhaps how the concert was promoted. But one possible reason goes deeper than that, and also strikes at the chorus’ own struggle to be diverse. The black community has long struggled against prejudice and to gain equality, and may see the gay community as diluting their own cause. This is just one answer, and there is no single answer to this issue. But looking into the audience tonight, I can see that the gay community itself has divisions to deal with, just as with the larger community. It may be hard to identify any solutions, but easy to see a problem

On Thursday, we stopped at the beach in Biloxi to heal one of those divisions. Richard Long’s story has been told on this blog. When he was a soldier stationed in Biloxi, only the white soldiers were allowed to go out on the beach, while he remained on base. Richard took his first steps on this beach today, and dipped his feet in the gulf, healing one division that existed early in his life. So much progress has been made, but we still have a long ways to go.

Jul. 12th, 2006

651brad

Jackson wrap up

I love the way the Chorus looks in their blue hued polos:


The brave people of Jackosn, Mississippi welcomed us with open arms. Well, except for the two benign protestors who didn't draw a crowd and couldn't really be heard anyway. They were simply bible thumpers wanting to save our souls. The post-concert reception at Hal & Mal's was a lot of fun and these genteel southerners are so exceptionally friendly. We met some nice blokes who are coming down to New Orleans!

In other news we got a very favorable review from The Birmingham News. Some quotes: "Testimonials about "coming out," acknowledgment of relationships publicly, the pain of informing friends and family, the need for social change - all were covered boldly, overtly and fearlessly." and "Judging by the looks on their faces, each singer is truly dedicated to the cause of tolerance, equality, freedom and normalcy, and that spirit comes through in their singing.

Here's a video of a consistant crowd pleaser "Color Out of Colorado" that the Chorus performed in Birmingham, Alabama. Now on to Mobile, AL.

Jul. 11th, 2006


lanceinmn

Getting closer to each other on tour...

Its Tuesday, and I've just returned from Hal and Mal's, a restaurant hosting an after concert event for us. Many of the people who bought tickets for our concert also signed up for this, and it was great to see how enthusiastic everyone was about the concert. I think it was an important concert, and really feel we made a difference here. I sing in a small group for "We Shall Overcome" out in the audience, and was way in back to sing our signature song, "Walk Hand In Hand," out with the audience. I held hands with two women sitting several rows back, and found them grateful we came. We did catch the notice of two protesters, speaking and holding signs outside the Thalia Mara Hall. We did expect something like this at some point, and I hope that nothing more serious than this happens.

Its hard to believe the tour is half over, and tough just keeping track of time. The concert at the Ryman auditorium in Nashville seems so long ago already. For me it was amazing to be there. And the concert hall on the UAB campus in Birmingham was a joy to perform in. Like our director Stan said to the audience, we're going to pack it up and bring the concert hall with us.

Tomorrow we travel to Mobile, Alabama. We've been growing closer on the bus rides, at least on our bus, the quiet bus. Kelsey and Glenn, longtime friends and often mistaken as a couple, have "come out" on the Marry Us song, where all the couples in the chorus come together to acknowledge their relationship. We've been having fun with this, calling them by their hyphenated last names. Though they aren't really a couple, we've been having fun with this on the bus. Lonnie has been really busy on the bus, working on repairing a few tuxes suffering some rips and tears. He really doesn't seem to be on vacation for the tour, and I'm glad we have him there.

Anyway, lots more to write about, but I'm going to bed.

Jul. 10th, 2006

651brad

Day three Where are we - Birmingham?

I assumed my official role as bus captain this morning as we rolled out of Nashville. The bus trip was easy and even though "The Southern Belle" is the "loud" bus we were all pretty placated from the fun of last night's concert.

Right now Josh is poking me in the shoulder and saying "are we there yet" in an attempt to distract me from blogging. Sad thing is I do have to cut this short. We're about to take a tour of Birmingham with someone from Equality Alabama, one of the beneficiaries of tonight's performance, and a to-be named local celebrity. It's got my curiosity piqued. More later. Goobye, nice people.

Jul. 9th, 2006

651brad

First concert underway

Hello nice people. I'm happy to report that our first concert went off without a hitch. No sign of any protestors and ticket sales nearly tripled from a week ago.


For me the most poignant moment was when the Chorus performed "Marry Us." Stan put it plainly - love deserves to be recognized even if our government refuses to do so. Boyfriends and partners of members joined the guys on the stage and dozens of couples in the audience rose to their feet to have their relationships recognized. While we're lucky in Minnesota that our legislators haven't sent to the people a proposed constitutional amendment to ban the recognition of same-sex marriage, the good people of Tennessee aren't so lucky. They have a huge fight on their hands - every other state that has sent an amendment to their voters has written this discriminatory piece of legislation into their constitutions. Learn more about how you can help the people of Tennessee at the Tennessee Equality Project's website.

TEP was one of the beneficiaries of our concert in Nashville. The other was Nashville in Harmony, a GLBT & Ally chorus. Celebrating its second year anniversary, this great group of people will undoubtedly change the lives of many people through their uplifting voices.
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651brad

Day two!

"Having a good time, wish you were here." That pretty much sums up what we're all experiencing. Southern hospitality certainly has exceeded my expectations. Nashville has 3 (that I know of) gay rags and at least two have an article about our upcoming concert. The fine people at our hotel are very accommodating and Miss Jean makes a mean waffle.

SATURDAY
Our flights back made it safely, though this bloggger personally suffered a sinus episode on the landing that can only be described as blinding white-hot pain. No one but Jamie our videographer seems to be sympathetic to my "aneurism" which has since caused a bruise above my eyebrow. But enough about my drama...

A group of guys went to a local restaurant called "Mrs. Winners Chicken and Biscuits" where we learned a bit about southern dining. One of them was confused when confronted with gravy options. Apparently here they have brown and white gravy. Who knew? My dining experience was also enlightening. We had a very friendly straight waiter who was camping it up for us - I was really surprised with his quick wit and gay savviness.

We were invited Saturday night to a hip club called Tribe where locals turned out in droves to show their support for us - or maybe it was that they just wanted a drink? Either way the natives were very friendly. One, in particular, certainly caught the attention of the MPLS boys:



That's all for now.

lanceinmn

Diversity Stories: 140 Brothers

by Russell Toscano

Hi...my name is Russell and I joined this chorus back in 1988 when it was the Twin Cities Men's Chorus.....Yep, that's right....no "G" word. I was here when we adopted that "G" woth blood, sweat, and tears.

Been with this chorus as we took our music from Seattle to Denver to Tampa to Montreal........and now here we are in the glorious South with "you all" in..Nashville,Birmingham, Jackson, Mobile and New Orleans......where we've come to share our gift, and we thank you for being here.

I'm never prouder as a gay man, than when I step onstage with these guys to make music.

But that isn't all there is to being up here, there's more....It's kinda like finding a RAINBOW colored box of CRACKER JACKS.....you know, with the "bonus prize" inside. So what's the bonus you ask...one word...."FAMILY"

Yes, this is MY FAMILY...I love them and I thank God for them every day........Hey, I'm really lucky....who else has these many brothers????

Jul. 8th, 2006

651brad

At the airport

One flight has already left this morning at 6:30ish. The excitement is palpable! My favorite part: Stan printed out little pink triangles with which to adorn our official tour t-shirts. Fabulous!

651brad

Last TCGMC Rehearsal before Tour


I whipped up this little video of our last rehearsal before we embark on our tour. I hope you enjoy it!

Jul. 7th, 2006


lanceinmn

Diversity Stories: Singing Through Life

by Tim Hodapp

I grew up singing. Dad taught my four brothers, sister and me his Marine Corps hymns and Mom taught us how to pray through song. High school choir, voice lessons in college, the Schola Cantorum; and after eight years of study and ordination, I sang the Mass.

As a priest, I chanted the Kyries and Glorias for years, until nearly a decade ago, when the blessings and Alleluias of a glorious Easter Sunday Mass were my last.

It took me a long time to come to grips with who I am: both beloved by God and gay. And when I finally did, I was 36 going on 37, (frankly, feeling far more like 16 going on 17).

Shortly after that Easter Sunday, I came out to my family and I came out to the world, and there's been no looking back. But, sadly, when I walked away from my beloved church, I walked away from her music.

In these intervening years, I’ve soloed in the shower, nestled next to my partner on our piano bench singing duets; and with my sibs I’ve continued to belt out “From the Halls of Montezuma.” But I’ve missed the brotherhood, the men who shared a common goal, a brotherhood who sang a common song.

That is, until now.

Here, in this choir, where I lift my voice with these men—united and unafraid—I’ve come home to a new community of brothers. To this choir, where acceptance is immediate and what's unspoken is understood, I owe my thanks.

To sing again is my peace; to sing with these men, my new brothers, is my joy.

lanceinmn

Out and About in New Orleans

July 14, 2006 - New Orleans, LA


St. Andrews Episcopal Church
1301 S Carrollton Ave, NOLA 70118
Beneficiaries:
New Orleans Gay Men’s Chorus
GLBT Cooperative
MCC Church of Greater New Orleans

General Information & Attractions

GLBT New Orleans

GLBT New Orleans Blogging

Jul. 6th, 2006


lanceinmn

Why I Am Going on Tour

by Richard Long

In the outset, let me say – a disclaimer of sorts – that I am extremely comfortable with and have unconditional trust in most all of you. Some I even love.

And, I need to remind you, even though you can see me, that I am a 61 year-old black man. Doing the math, you’ll conclude that I was nine years old in 1954, the beginning of school integration; 12 at the beginning of the civil rights era and a young man of 21 before I left the south.

So I was a little skeptical about the “little ceremony in Biloxi” that Stan announced to us last week when he told you that I’d be speaking tonight. My experience and point of view are different from yours and the above facts heavily inform them. Because of race or age – or both – I am certain that none of your synapses made the connections mine did when Stan made that promise. A group of white men holding a ceremony on a beach in Biloxi, MS for a black man? I’m not kidding! Even being away for decades, my mind conjured up flowing white “outfits”, large, wooden Christian symbols, and, “fireworks”…even though I surely knew better.

My first reaction to the announcement that we were going on a tour of the south was “Have fun, guys. I’ve lost nothing there. I will not be going!” I grew up in South Carolina, attended my last two years of high school and two more of college in Georgia, and was stationed in Texas and Mississippi before leaving the south. I felt no strong urge to return.

Then I thought about it. I concluded that this trip would be for GLBTs what the ‘60’s were for black people of the south. We would be the GLBT Freedom Riders; this would be our Selma and Montgomery and Birmingham, our sit-ins at lunch counters and our bus boycotts.

I can tell you from personal experience that there were plenty of homosexual and interracial carryings-on in the south, even in the ‘60’s. However, they weren’t spoken about. As a good friend, a black clergyman here in Minnesota, once explained, “You can be and do anything you want as long as you don’t talk about it.” He was being asked by a black, gay, professor from a Massachusetts university who was out and proud who could not understand how or why my friend would be in the closet.

That’s what this trip is about for me – Talking about it!

It is uncanny that all this thinking I was doing was right around the time of the deaths of Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King and the opening of Brokeback Mountain. Our going to the south on this tour will allow people who haven’t dared to say who they are to really begin living out loud. We bring “the best face of the gay community” to oppressed, closeted, paranoid, full-of-shame, gay people and their families. When they realize that this face exists, their dignity will be empowered. They may or may not begin or join gay choruses, but they’ll know at least 120 proud gay men who have modeled behavior that they may adopt. When people see what it is they wish to become, they can more fully embrace it.

That moment for me happened after GALA II that was held here in Minneapolis at Orchestra Hall in 1986. I was never a prouder gay man than when I exited that hall after being mesmerized for hours by brave, proud, talented gay men and women who told me in song that I was special and needn’t fear being gay. I remember feeling that it would be all right if TV cameras were outside and if they wanted to interview me, I’d have plenty to say. (I was not out to my family yet but this would have been the perfect time!)

Stan often repeats the story of a woman overheard saying after we sang in the Mall of America that she didn’t know there were 120 gay men in Minneapolis let alone that we could sing. I imagine we’ll be hearing more of that on this entire trip. The cities we’re coming to - Nashville, Birmingham, Jackson, Mobile, (Biloxi) and New Orleans - will be making paradigm shifts after our visit. Those communities – I mean all its inhabitants: straight, gay, black, white, male, female – will become aware of our existence and that of their gay neighbors, they will examine their own fears and prejudices, and they will be forced to “talk about it”.

Going on this trip makes our motto real: We will “change lives through music.” In some cases, we may literally save some.

lanceinmn

Tour Itinerary on Yahoo

One of our second tenors, Jason K, has created a full itinerary of the Great Southern Sing-Out Tour.
It's an interactive itinerary that enables tour participants to:
*View all of the itinerary information including motor coach schedule, travel tips, location addresses/phone numbers, concert schedules, and pre-planned social activities.
*Link directly to the web sites for all of our hotels, concert venues, pre-planned activities (i.e. Nash-Trash Tour), city transit information, and additional places of interest.
*View and print maps of every place the chorus goes as a group within each city.
*Create and print maps customized for your individual plans on your own time.
*Plot directions to/from every location in the itinerary and to/from destinations in your individual plans.
*Get directions to meet chorus members if staying in a different hotel or taking separate transportation.
*Share our itinerary and contact information with family and friends at home.
*Copy the itinerary and customize it to your liking.

You do not need a Yahoo! ID to use the trip planner unless you want to copy and customize it for yourself.
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lanceinmn

Out and About In Mobile, Alabama

July 12, 2006 - Mobile, AL

7:30 pm
At Bishop State Community College
Baker-Gaines Central Campus, Yvonne Kennedy Auditorium
Tickets: $30, Private Reception following the performance $20
Tickets available at:

  • Beinville Books, 109 Dauphin St.
  • Zimlich Brothers, 1910 Government St.
  • Black Classic Books and Gifts, 2206 Airport Blvd.
  • Bay Area Inclusion, 100-C S. Florical St.
  • Over the Rainbow, 18 S. Conception St.

Call 251-450-1060 for more information
Beneficiary: Bay Area Inclusion

General Information & Attractions:

GLBT Mobile, Alabama:

GLBT Mobile Blogging:

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