Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Notes from GALA 2008: Every Sign is Sacred

July 15, 2008, Knight Concert Hall, Miami. 
Anna Crusis Women’s Choir from Philadelphia had performed an awesome set, including the Kinsey Sicks’ “I Wanna Be a Republican” and the amusing “Madrigals for the Information Age.” James Rowe, their ASL interpreter, did an amazing job entertaining the audience at large.   The signage at GALA doesn’t look like regular sign language. It is closer to interpretive dance.  This becomes quite a show, especially with larger choruses who aren’t as able to incorporate a lot of movement into their presentation.  I thought Rowe had done the biggest ASL performance I’d seen. Until the next act came on.

Seattle Men’s Chorus did a strong set of crowd-pleasing material. I found myself captivated by their ASL interpreter.  He was a small, spritely twink type who bounded around the stage. As my Polari-fluent Belfast native friend “Wozzeck” says, “Oh, I’m in love.”  Here’s the youngest ASL interpreter at the festival, and I could feel the concert hall watching him as well. He must be twenty at most. I’m not sitting close, and the hall holds 2,500 people. So I can’t tell for sure.

Off program, Seattle Men’s Chorus added Monty Python’s “Every Sperm is Sacred” (1983, Howman/Jacquemin/Palin/Jones) which of course I recognized from the first line, “There are Jews in the world.” There was quite a delay of recognition in the hall until we got to the chorus. Many people I know were practically raised on Monty Python, and my old cabaret trio Larry, Hall, and Jack did plenty of it.  Even the Winsome Griffles could turn a Python tune into a hill billy number.

Kevin Gallagher, the ASL interpreter, had the audience in stitches with this number. If he had come close to upstaging the chorus earlier, here he definitely did. Kevin even had a brief but prominent surprise solo vocal: the final “and mine” normally given to a bass voice.  (If you don’t get the joke here, watch The Meaning of Life.)

At the GALA Legacy Awards Reception, Kevin Gallagher was an honoree and recipient. It turns out Kevin has already been signing for the Seattle Men’s Chorus for twenty-eight years. Shocking! I was amazed. At the closing night party, thrown at the Hyatt by SFGMC, I had the pleasure of meeting this Kevin Gallagher in person. He was much taller than he looked on stage. He was very nice, a little soft-spoken, and rail slender. Very dashing. I am impressed by his transcendence of age. I have seen it in a few dancers, like Kathy Mata at San Francisco Dance Center. At top is a pic of Kevin and me at the party.

Everyone left the Seattle show with, if nothing else, a lasting impression of how to make the sign for ‘ejaculation’ or ‘ejaculate.’

Our ASL interpreter, for the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco (a.k.a. The Slash Chorus or LGCSF) which performed my music at GALA, was Ethan. He had giant hands well suited for signing. I asked him if the pun in my piece “Magic Snow” made sense in sign language as well. Yes it did. Ethan was later seen at the closing night party go-go dancing. Here’s a pic of Ethan rehearsing backstage at the Ziff Ballet Opera House with The Slash Chorus, LGCSF.

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