The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus posted this yesterday with the following explanation:
Yesterday, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus was fortunate enough to perform for the students of The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush. After the concert, our very own Marcus Saitschenko shared some beautiful words about the origin of the gay choral movement, words made more poignant by recent current events. Thank you, Marcus. #philagmc #WhyWeSing #ItGetsBetter #ShareOurHistory
That statement is very nice, but it is not exactly true. The gay choral movement was started before AIDS hit. SFGMC’s first public performance, for example, was the night Moscone and Milk were killed.
I was a co-founder of one of the groups inspired by the San Francisco chorus’s national tour, which roughly coincided with the first news reports of AIDS but was planned beforehand and took place before the reality of the disease had sunk in for most of us. I remember our early discussions in the summer of 1981. We were motivated by pride and memories of our college glee clubs.
The DC gay community did not feel under siege at the time; we were recognized as a voting bloc and were pursuing our goal of equality. We still had much to do, but were already included in the DC Human Rights Act. Of course in the years that followed, the gay choral movement rose to the challenge of the epidemic and created powerful music that chronicled our experience and helped galvanize us. I remember how moved I was later in the decade by SFGMC’s beautiful contribution to the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Rising to the struggle helped give our music new meaning. But the origins of the choral movement preceded that.