Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus goes Broadway with Avenue Queer

Avenue Q logo courtesy of Gerald Gurss
Avenue Q logo courtesy of Gerald Gurss

With the 50th anniversary of Twin Cities Pride comes plenty of events, concerts and pop-ups. It’s the time to be proud of who we are as individuals and see how far we’ve come as a community. Next to Christmas, it’s maybe my favorite time of the year just due to the sheer joy the queer community exudes. With that comes another season with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, their 41st to be exact. 

Last year they celebrated their 40th season which is a feature in itself as it was during a pandemic. Over the last two years as the world stopped, art took a serious hit as well. Many organizations took a break for the year, some moved to different cities while others completely ceased to exist. However TCGMC is back and they certainly aren’t slowing down and they are excited to be bringing their music back to the community, which has been life-giving, says Kevin Stocks, their Executive Director.

“We were proud of what we were able to accomplish in the ‘virtual world,’ but choral music is intended to be experienced live and in person,” says Stocks. “There’s just something so visceral about hearing, and feeling, the music along with other people. There’s that magic moment after the cut-off and before the applause that I just don’t think can be replicated.”

As a performer myself, I can attest to that. There is nothing like hearing the audience yourself, seeing them and making that emotional connection. Before I dove into their current and upcoming series, I wanted to know more about the future for TCGMC. Planning for the short term is important but also keeping a strategic eye on the long run is even more important, especially after a global pandemic that caused many organizations to shut their doors. 

While TCGMC is celebrating their 41st season, what comes next? What is upcoming in the next eight seasons as they lead up to their 50th one? While building a community is at the core of the TCGMC mission, we can expect exciting new work

“I know we’re going to have a lot of enthusiasm around our 50th season which will be here before we know it. Commissioning music that can speak to our unique experience is something TCGMC has been known for, so I’d suspect we’ll have an exciting new work to premiere,” described Stocks. “Nothing is set in stone yet, but whatever it is will be something worth coming out for!”

Avenue Queer is the title of their upcoming concert, which is set to run June 17 and 18, is going to be a musical journey for the year. The concert will feature a repertoire from the vast songbooks of some of the most celebrated musicals of all time. A natural tie to pay homage to the musical Avenue Q, I asked the Artistic Director, Dr. Gerald Gurss why Broadway-themed for this show.

Guess responded that the queer comunity as a whole spends a good majority of the year fighting the good fight through social justice work, rights advocacy and just “putting up with the ‘yuck’ that can sometimes come out in humans.” No doubt that is why so many of us enjoy the month of June. While we continue to fight for equality in all facets of the queer community, it’s nice to take a breath and celebrate for a moment. Most of all, it’s important. 

“[During Pride] simply celebrating who we are as a culture is a beautiful departure from the work we do born out of the anger for what we’d like to see change. Anger 11 months out of the year seems like an unhealthy divide of our emotions and time spent dwelling there,” Dr. Gurss said. “Additionally, the arts and queer culture intersect in many beautiful ways, from spoken word, to singing, to dancing, to visual art.”

It only makes sense that the joys that Broadway and musical theatre give us would be the perfect theme for this year’s Pride concert. When putting together the programming for Avenue Queer, Dr. Gurss said he had two goals in mind. First was to create a collection of songs that gave a storyline that would unite the songs in a new way, despite them being from different shows. The second was to ensure that they would be familiar to a wide scope of ages in both singing membership and their audiences. Easier said than done.

That’s why they hired actor and playwright Denzel Belin to create a script for them specifically for this show. The script had to fit the two goals Dr. Gurss had while also giving the range of a Broadway timeline from Annie Get Your Gun to modern hits like Waitress

Trying to prod a bit more, I asked Dr. Gurss if there are any sneak peeks or any inside scoops he could give us into the concert. While he didn’t want to give away too much he did spill that two very well known musicals will be featured. For the newer fans, ‘Hello’ from The Book of Mormon will be sung as well as ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ for the more veteran musical theatre fans from the show Carousel. 

This past year was a tragic one for musical theatre fans as one of our founding fathers of modern musical theatre, Stephen Sondheim, passed away. Dr. Gurss mentioned that Sondheim’s passing was only a few weeks before passing out the music for the rehearsal period which is why they also included a new arrangement of ‘Sunday,’ from Sunday in the Park with George“.

This year, TCGMC will include a very special guest in their Pride concert. Broadway actress Britney Coleman will be taking a break from her run in Company to join the performance. I asked Dr. Gurss how this came to be. In turns out in 2017, Broadway composer Andrew Lippa was commissioned by a handful of GALA (The Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses) choruses, including TCGMC, to create a new oratorio-style musical called Unbreakable

“[We] sang the work in our spring 2019 concert; however, San Francisco GMC premiered the work, and Coleman was in the original cast,” Dr Gurss elaborated. “Since then, Britney has collaborated with other GALA choruses, and every director I approached about hiring her…gave the highest praise for her.”.

Avenue Queer will play at the Ted Mann Concert hall in Minneapolis on Friday, June 17 and Saturday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m. The Saturday performance will include an ASL interpreter who will be located on the right side of the stage. Tickets start at $40 and are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased at tcgmc.org

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