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VIDEO: San Diego singing groups to attend international GALA Chorus Festival in Denver

DENVER – With over 6,000 delegates from gay and lesbian chorus organizations heading to Colorado this weekend, Denver will turn into what would seem like a “Glee” fanatic’s dream. But the event, the GALA Choruses Festival 2012, is a big deal to those in the singing world, and will include hundreds of outstanding performances, workshops, networking and fun for its attendees.

GALA – standing for Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses – holds the annual festival just once every four years so many of the 130- member choruses spend a great amount of time – sometimes years -- preparing for the affair.

Nearly 100 members of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus (SDGMC) and 40 members of the San Diego Women’s Chorus (SDWC) are heading to Denver for the event, taking place July 7-12.

Most of the participating choruses will perform during a specified concert block during the festival, but this is not a choral competition.

Carin Scheinin, president of the SDWC, says that performing for fellow choruses from around the world is the greatest thrill of the festival.

“Everyone brings their A-game to GALA and wants to show what they can do - you always want to be better than you were 4 years ago or impress people,” Scheinin said. “We work really hard to perfect our repertoire and choose challenging music but at the end of the day, everyone in the audience is rooting for whoever is on stage and we’re all winners. The audience knows what it’s like to be up on stage singing your heart out. There’s nothing like singing to a room full of singers. They get it. They just want you to do well and love you for being there.”

Not only will singing attendees have the opportunity to perform for their peers, but they will also have the chance to watch other choruses and choose from a number of special concerts organized by GALA.

Each evening, a number of “Festival Blockbuster” concerts will be held, including “The Big Gay Sing,” “Songs of the Soul” and “Chorus Singin’ in the Round.”

The weeklong festival will also include morning coffee concerts, youth concerts and special events for women.

Event organizers say that no other choral event in the world offers as many performances from the number of performing groups that will be present with nearly 200 concerts to be performed over the 4½-day period.

Non-performing attendees, which will include some board members, staff and volunteers of chorus groups, will be able to participate in a number of workshops with topics like social media, board development, fundraising and other important leadership topics.

Participants can also choose from a number of fun workshops, including daily yoga, square dancing, and music sessions.

Scheinin said that the youth chorus block is a fantastic addition to the festival.

“The GALA festival organizers actually tailored a mini-festival for youth chorus delegates and they are able to attend at no cost, which is really fantastic since many of the members of youth choruses may not have the support of their parents, etc,” Scheinin said. “They bring such vibrancy to the festival and are an awesome exhibition of hope for our community. I can’t wait to see them perform!”

Monica Boyd and Tuyet Ruoff, also members of SDWC, will attend their first GALA event this year. The pair, who joined SDWC during its last season, drive from Costa Mesa in Orange County each week for rehearsals in San Diego.

“One of the main reasons we decided to join the chorus this season was because of the trip to GALA in Denver,” Boyd said. “We are both previous members of the Long Beach-based South Coast chorale. Four years ago that chorus had talked about going to the festival in Miami, but a director change over the summer caused them to rethink the idea, to my great disappointment. When I saw that the invitation to join the San Diego women's chorus for this season and saw their webpage with details about their upcoming concert and that they would definitely be attending gala, I was very excited to give them a try!”

Boyd says that she is looking forward to joining her fellow singers in Denver, while making new friends and contacts – while having a bit of fun.

“Tuyet is planning lots of fun and outrageous outfits that I'm sure will get her lots of attention,” Boyd laughed. “Lots of tutus, bright colors, funny hats, and even a leather outfit!”

Festival delegates are known to don fun costumes throughout the event, many times coordinating outfits for the entire group.

Members of SDGMC will wear T-shirts that say “What happens at GALA … Is Life Changing” on one day, and also have a Hawaiian shirt day.

Besides all of the singing, costumes, workshops and fun, Scheinin says the festival brings about an incredible sense of connectedness.

“There’s a really wonderful camaraderie during the festival because, even though every chorus is different in so many ways (type, culture – as in the culture of the chorus, audition vs. non-audition, location), we all are connected by having roots in the LGBT movement,” Scheinin said. “We all connect with the idea that we sing to be visible and bring about change. We do that in different ways, but you can identify with all the delegates in that way.”

More information about the GALA Festival is HERE.

SDGLN Staff Writer Ben Cartwright also serves as the executive director of the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus. He will be attending his first GALA Chorus Festival this year. Cartwright can be reached at 877-727-5446 ext. 707 or ben@sdgln.com.