The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps (LGBAC) Symphonic Band and the Generations Project collaborated on “Once Upon a Time … the Soundtrack to Our Story,” a program proudly examining our recent history through music and the spoken word, at Symphony Space on April 8. Presiding over the concert was LGBAC Music Director Henco Espag. Broadway’s Kyle Post, as Master of Ceremonies, and singer Alicia Hall Moran were special guests.
Celebrating Stonewall were a joyous pairing of Galt McDermot’s “Aquarius” and “Let the Sunshine In,” in Jérôme Thomas’ arrangements, from “Hair,” which was on Broadway at the time of the historic 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, and a vigorous, bellicose “Mars: the Bringer of War,” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” transcribed by Clark McAlister, edited by Alfred Reed, saluting the GLBT activists, including Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, who first fought back against police raiding a bar, marking the birth of the Gay Liberation Movement. LGBAC gave a nod to its own history with an ebullient, spicy “Amparito Roca,” by Jaime Texidor, arranged by Gary Fagan, which the band had played at its first concert, in 1979.
Dusky-toned Moran, assisted by the Corps, honored GLBT lovers, past and present, with Bart Howard’s “Music for Lovers,” made famous by Nina Simone, and performed here in Maestro Espag’s concert band version, based on Phil Mattson’s arrangement. To remember gay men lost to AIDS, in the early days of the crisis, and remember, as well, their valiant lesbian care partners, LGBAC played a dulcet and uplifting “Echoes of Memories,” by Wataru Hokoyama.
Marriage Equality icon Edie Windsor, veteran LGBAC musician Joe Avena, and Miss Vanity Platés, who will host a benefit for the Corps on May 5 at Etcetera Etcetera, were recognized. A rousing “It’s Raining Men,” the Weather Girls’ disco-era anthem, followed.
The Generations Project screened clips of Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin and other early activists at various times during the evening and brought along three speakers, who moved us with their stories. Brian Belovitch, a “happily married puppy bear,” told of his past transitioning and of surviving HIV and alcoholism, to introduce Queen’s grand operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Reginald Brown paid emotional tribute to “my love, my support, my best friend,” his nurse practitioner mother, who had encouraged him “to be anything I want to,” and the Corps, led by Assistant Conductor Francis Novak, played a hushed and exotic-sounding “An Obvious Love,” by Gary P. Gilroy. Veteran New York City Police Officer Colleen Meenan discussed her history with the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO), protesting for 23 years against being barred from the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, until 2016, and LGBAC gave us an evocative Suite on Celtic Folk Songs, now nostalgic, now festive, by Tomohiro Tateben.
Henco presented LGBAC’s Profile in Leadership Award to Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) CEO Michael Adams; concluded the concert with a surprisingly upbeat Rhapsody on “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” the spiritual, by Toshio Horiuchi; and sent us off with a jubilant encore of “Let the Sunshine In.”
On October 21, at Mason Hall, at Baruch College, LGBAC will collaborate with Baruch on “Level Up!: The Iconic Music of Video Games and Anime.” Visit www.lgbac.org
for further information.