Quiet No More

Artistic Director Dustin Cates and accompanist Lamar Sims. Photo courtesy of Toto TV Media.

On a June evening 50 years ago, patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a small bar in New York City, showed the world that LGBTQ people were not going to take the harassment of police raids anymore. They were going to fight back.

For many people, the resulting riots marked the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement.

New York City’s celebration of this anniversary, called WorldPride Stonewall 50, will take place throughout June. More than 50 events are planned, including a Pride March at the end (https://bit.ly/2vIGRtc).

But before that, here in Kansas City, Heartland Men’s Chorus will commemorate the historic event with its March 23-24 concert called Stonewall 50: All of Us. It will be feature the world premiere of the Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall 50 concert before other cities showcase the commission.

Of course, gay activism had existed for many years before Stonewall. A historical marker at the northeast corner of the Barney Allis Plaza in downtown Kansas City commemorates one example – a meeting in February 1966. That’s when national gay and lesbian civil rights leaders gathered for the first time in the State Hotel, 12th and Wyandotte Streets, to develop strategies for collaboration, Stuart Hinds, curator of the Gay & Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (GLAMA) collection at UMKC, has reported. (See his October 2016 article in Camp: https://bit.ly/2vIGRtc)

HMC Artistic Director Dustin Cates

For the Heartland Men’s Chorus, artistic director Dustin Cates said, talks about Stonewall’s anniversary began years ago when he was attending a GALA Choruses convention.

“Actually, five years ago, when I first took over as artistic director of the Heartland Men’s Chorus, I went to my very first GALA Choruses conference … for the leadership of LGBTQ choruses across the country. And conversations were beginning, especially with the larger choruses, about how we might commemorate and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.”

HMC organizers had a concept in mind and started talking about composers and thematic material about a year and a half ago. “And then various choruses from around the country began to sign on to commissioning,” Cates said. “It was spearheaded by Los Angeles and New York City, but we were probably the third or fourth chorus to say, yep, we’re into it.”

Former HMC Artistic Director Joe Nadeau

Joe Nadeau, former artistic director of the Heartland Men’s Chorus, has been an instrumental force behind the commission of Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall 50.

Nadeau recently left the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, where he was the artistic director for the last five and a half years. Before that, he was the Heartland Men’s Chorus artistic director for 15 years.

Nadeau said that the idea for this commission began with a conversation between the Los Angeles and New York Gay Men’s Choruses. The two choruses “had discovered that we were both celebrating our 40th anniversaries in 2019. … We also discovered that it was the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.”

So Nadeau reached out to Charles Beale, the artistic director of New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, about two and a half years ago.

“I said, ‘Hey, you know, we both have these big anniversaries coming up and it’s also the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. We should probably do something big, you know, do a bigger, commissioned work.”

Because the Stonewall uprising happened in New York, Nadeau told Beale, it would make sense for Beale to take the lead on the plans. Nadeau offered to help in any way possible.

“So we put our heads together. We did some initial meetings and we brought in someone named Jason Cannon who is also from New York City. He ended up doing a lot of the legwork research background. He is basically the researcher and main librettist for the work.”

Nadeau said that they now have 26 choruses on board as part of this co-commissioning project.

Back from Los Angeles

Nadeau and his husband, Eric Aufdengarten, moved back from Los Angeles to live in Lenexa and be closer to family last year after he resigned from the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus. They were married in 2015 and have been together for nine years.

Nadeau is teaching full time. He’s not currently involved with HMC, but he is active with GALA Choruses as a board member and co-chair of the festival committee, which plans the international gathering of the choruses that takes place every four years.

Concert details

Photo courtesy of Toto TV Media.

The first act of the concert will feature the songs of six LGBTQ composers: Michael Shaieb, Our Lady J, Julian Hornik, Ann Hampton Callaway, Michael McElroy and Jane Ramseyer Miller.

The second act will feature songs such as “The Song We Sing,” “Sanctuary,” “You Will Be Found,” “Music in the Air,” and more. Joining HMC in these songs will be two choral groups in Kansas City – Choral Spectrum and Heartsong, a subgroup of the Kansas City Women’s Chorus.

Cates said he is assisted in the production of this concert and others by Phil Kinen on theatrical staging, Bob Kohler on choreography, and light and set design by Alex Perry of A to Z Theatrical in Kansas City. Lamar Sims plays piano onstage, and an ensemble of musicians in the orchestra pit.

“We’ll have a couple of extra instrumentalists with us for this one. It’s got a little small chamber orchestra with the piece,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Toto TV Media.

Cates said the number of HMC members participating in each concert varies, but that this performance will feature 112 singers. In addition, their chamber ensemble of 24 singers performs at various venues and their comedy and music group of eight singers called The Burnt Ends usually performs at least one number at each concert.

Convention performance

Cates said that the Heartland Men’s Chorus would be singing at the National American Choral Directors Association Convention, called “Common Threads: A Choral Welcome to Kansas City,” on Feb. 26.

“That’s sort of like the Super Bowl of choir,” he laughed. “Like once you’ve reached there, you know, you’re doing good things.” Cates said they would be collaborating with three other Kansas City choirs.

In addition to his HMC work, Cates has a teaching fellowship at UMKC. He said he teaches music education to undergraduates who are planning to be band and orchestra teachers.

Cates has been married to Raymond Cattaneo for six years and they’ve been together for 13. They live in downtown Kansas City. Cattaneo joined the Chorus two years ago, and their son has been onstage with HMC.

“He has participated in every holiday concert we’ve done for the last five years. He’s sometimes conducted the chorus and always comes out and says ‘Merry Christmas, Kansas City!’ at the end of our concert.”

Photo courtesy of Toto TV Media.

Expanding HMC’s reach

In the last several years HMC has reached out beyond its usual venue at the Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City to perform in Johnson County at Yardley Hall, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, and the White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park.

“I think one of my goals for the chorus was to expand its reach. And while there is this rebirth in downtown Kansas City, you know we have a sprawling city that goes way out south, and I think that that may be an area of the city where our message is most needed. And so we began to explore ways that we might plug into doing more performances while not abandoning our roots and our position as one of the resident performing ensembles at the Folly.”

In addition, HMC members are often mainstays at AIDS Walk, the Pride festival and other events in the LGBTQ community.

Cates doesn’t see gay men’s choruses, lesbian women’s choruses or transgender choruses going away, but he said there has been talk at GALA about when more choral groups will combine into one more inclusive chorus.

“But you know, I mean there’s lots of conversation going around even in the gay choral movement, about how much longer, you know, when we call ourselves a lesbian chorus or a gay men’s chorus, how much longer is that going to be seen as inclusive as opposed to exclusive. I mean we have, we have a significant number of straight males singing. And we have a female singer too. We should continue to honor and say gay men’s chorus, but I also think we should lean into this idea of being inclusive of everybody because I think that’s really at the core of who we are as a community.”

HMC’s next concert in June will be Rock You, featuring the music of Queen.

“It was just kind of a happy accident that for the past two years, our pop concert coincided with the release of a movie that was featuring the music of the same band,” he said, laughing. Last year’s ABBA concert came out the same year as the sequel to Mamma Mia.

If you go:

Stonewall 50: All of Us will be performed at the Folly Theater at 8 p.m. March 23 and 4 p.m. March 24. Tickets: www.hmckc.org or at the Folly Theater box office, 816-931-3338.

Before the show, Stuart Hinds, curator of the GLAMA archives at UMKC, will talk about the role that Kansas City played in the national struggle for LGBTQ civil rights.

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