The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles kicked off its 40th anniversary last week with a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The concert, a collaboration with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and others, commemorated the uprising at the Stonewall Inn 50 years ago this month.
Chorus member Rob Gordon remembers walking into the first GMCLA rehearsal 40 years ago in West Hollywood. He’d seen the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus perform on tour at Hollywood High School the year before and after that, “pretty much everywhere they went, a chorus sprang up, like they were Johnny Appleseed.” Gordon, known in the group as a “first nighter,” said he sensed something powerful about the chorus from the get go.
“You know, even in 1979, any time a large group of gay people got together in public it felt like a revolutionary act,” he recalled. “Because it basically didn’t much happen.”
The chorus formed only 11 years after the police raid at the gay bar Black Cat Tavern in Silver Lake on New Year’s Eve, 1966. The Los Angeles Police Department regularly raided bars and harassed LGBT businesses, relying on laws prohibiting lewd behavior and indecency.
The Black Cat raid and subsequent protests were a precursor to the uprising at Stonewall a year-and-a-half later. So by the late ‘70s, Gordon was eager to join a group where men had to be out to be in it. He said it was deliberate choice to put the word ‘Gay’ in the group’s name.
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