Friday, August 8, 2008
Notes from GALA 2008: River City Gender Blender
One of the nice surprises of the festival was from the River City Mixed Chorus of Omaha, Nebraska. The program listed one piece, "Gender Blender," by Mark Kurtz, unpublished. Mark turns out to be the group's own Music Director. The piece was remarkably fresh lyrically (despite the overly wry title), and its politics were as well-informed as anything coming from a coastal metropolis. Numerous chorus members bemoaned, "oh, we had to cut one of the pieces, you really should have heard it." Clearly, the singers were proud of the piece and their chorus. This performance illustrated many things about culture in this country. For starters, as I was once told in Mississippi, everyone gets Showtime. Nebraska, or any other orthagonal state, is not necessarily a cultural or sexual backwater. It can be a fertile ground for interesting, cutting-edge, original work. Nor will a group from such an area necessarily fall victim to self-censorship, or fear of performing such work. I do wonder if Omaha is really an open, welcoming place filled with heartwarming trannies, or if the sensibility was copped from visits elsewhere. I also think it's good to have original music which is upbeat, witty, and positive. I hope the Chorus gets a lot of mileage out of Kurtz's piece.