“They’re coming with their badges billy clubs, attitude,” the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus sings a song that describes the Stonewall Riots in preparation for a big performance, Carnegie Hall. They sang with 500 other performers for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, an early morning uprisings outside a gay bar in New York City that had been raided one too many times by police. The crime, being gay.
“They kept getting pushed back and getting pushed back and getting arrested and then finally one night they said, ‘no, we’re not doing this anymore,’ and someone threw a brick and the whole thing started,” says Douglas Wilson, the artistic director of the chorus.
Getting ready took a lot of work. This is one of two performances in unison with other men’s choruses from around the country. The next will be in August closer to home at Disney Hall.
“There’s like eight different composers, different composers on each movement of the song, a lot of different styles of music and it was difficult to prepare it was one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done,” says Wilson.
These performances and lyrics are so meaningful to each member, for different reasons.
For Philip Martin, who is a founding member of the chorus and lived the early days of the movement this song brings back memories.
“I’m going to jump right into the middle of the floor to the only place that you can dance,” sings the chorus.
Memories, he says of the only place he and other LGBTQ youths could dance, “The gays danced with the lesbians because a car was coming up the hillside and they didn’t know who it was and they were afraid it might be raided so if they found out it was okay, that it wasn’t somebody from the vice squad the jukebox would go back on and you would go back to your same sex partner, so that was the only place you could dance in the 60s in Southern California,” says Martin adding, and the fear was all to real no matter where you lived, “hiding from our families, hiding from our occupations, our life calling, you know, it was, you were afraid.”
For Jeff Kopasz, who is a local music teacher, this has been a learning experience, “As one of the younger members of the chorus I‘ve learned so much from talking with my chorus brothers who lived through many of those previous decades of struggles and coming out and fighting adversity and fighting equality.”
Through song, all members are committed to making sure the movement doesn’t end with them.
“They may have to go through some trials an tribulations but it’s worth it, it gets better,” says Martin to any youth going through a hard time now.