Rise & Change: GMCLA’s “I Rise” at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Tonight, we use music and stories to celebrate the joys of being spiritual beings, and to shed light on the oppression that religion has been
employed to justify… Our hope is that I Rise will spark a conversation
that connects our communities, rather than build walls that divide us.

– Joseph Nadeau, GMCLA Artistic Director & Conductor


REASON    Over 200 singers representing a wide range of faith communities joined the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles for a special summer concert, I Rise,  at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, on July 8, 2017. In addition, a VIP cocktail reception was held between performances in the Founder’s Room.

REVELERS    Holly Near, Breanna Sinclairé, John Duran, Wendy Burch, Brandon Petross-Oliver, Cassie Nickols, Selah Gospel Choir, VOX Femina and Aftershock all made special contributions to the performance and significance of the event.

RECAP    I Rise addresses the past, present and future of spirituality in the LGBT community by featuring an array of religious, spiritual and secular music accompanied by personal stories of religious rejection/persecution, community clashes and unexpected acceptance. The inspiring musical tribute song by over 500 voices brought many to tears to many eyes with the song “In My Mother’s Eyes,” which was accompanied by an overhead projection of photos of chorus members with their mothers.

Other highlights included the performance of “Somewhere” (Westside Story) by trans opera singer Breanna Sinclairé, “I Aint Afraid,” (written by Holly Near), the Muslim call to prayer sung by Ani Zonnenfeld and every moment that singer/songwriter Holly Near charged on stage and hypnotized the crowd.

The reception was attended by donors and influential supporters, either post-matinee or pre-evening performance. Reception hostess and program emcee Wendy Burch joked with guests, announced her recent decision to join GMCLA’s board of directors and detailed the accomplishments of speakers John Duran (Board Chair), Jonathan Weedman (Executive Director), Joseph Nadeau (Artistic Director), Gavin Thrasher (Assistant Conductor) and Steve Holzer  (Vice Chair). The passion of those who spoke made it clear that GMCLA is determined to push forward and create change.

Some audience members who hadn’t expected the religious nature of I Rise felt that perhaps it was a bit heavy-handed. But, as John Duran shared with donors at the reception, members of the chorus were challenged to invite those in their lives with whom there were unresolved issues because of religion and sexual orientation. The message of healing was prominent, but the lesson that family can come in many incarnations and bring peace, was by far the rising star.

“This about changing people’s attitudes about LGBT people,” Duran said. “And for us, ourselves being the changers, we are also changed in the process.”

For more information, visit GMCLA.org.

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