One Voice Mixed Chorus held a heartfelt concert full of songs, testimony and rabble rousing as it honored queer youth and elders at the Ordway Concert Hall on Sunday. The “Generation” concert was the last performance led by outgoing artistic director Jane Ramseyer Miller, who has spearheaded the LGBTQ organization for nearly three decades.
At the start of “Generation,” the choir sang Pete Townsend’s joyful “My Generation,” arranged by Abi Moore, as singers marched through the aisles of the Ordway Concert Hall and held signs that carried a range of messages. There were climate action signs, trans rights signs, and signs that gave visibility to the different generations represented in the choir. “Beatnik poets are cool cats,” read one sign. “Mix tapes & MTV” read another.
The program included playful banter between its youngest and oldest members, like in the duet between Lynne Larsen, who is 85, and Irene Weinhagen, who is 17. They sang Irving Berlin’s “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” from the musical “Annie Get Your Gun,” with lyrics revised by Ramseyer Miller to cover points of diversion between the two singers’ ages, on topics like insurance, Twitter, and Mai Tais.
Along a similar vein, “Teenagers Kick our Butts,” composed by Dar Williams and arranged by Ramsweyer Miller, was a wonderful sendup to youth, accompanied by a video montage of youth activism and coupled with some whimsical air guitar playing.
The concert also looked back at LGBTQ history. Julian Hornik’s emotional “And We Walked” highlighted Stonewall and the activism that erupted following that event. “Left Behind,” about the HIV epidemic, written by composer Roger Bourland and lyricist John Hall for lower voices, powerfully shared the stories of people who lived through the worst of the AIDS crisis. Emily Najjar-Field conducted the piece.
“Left Behind” was followed by a beautiful piece, “Amo,” by Nico Gutierrez which set a poem by his great-grandfather, Mariano Melendro Serna, to music. The poem is about missing loved ones left behind. Since it followed the AIDS crisis piece, the work resonated with the ethos of that era as well. Guitierrez’s work contains aching harmonies, performed with a full, layered sound by the choir.
Video played a significant role in the “Generation” concert, and provided an avenue for the voices of different members of the LGBTQ community to tell their stories. The songs themselves provided another avenue. Under Ramseyer Miller’s direction, the group’s diction, helped with the Ordway Concert Hall’s exquisite acoustics, helped elevate the words in each of the songs. That’s important when so much of the music utilizes poetry and the profundity of the lyrics as a key part of the artistry.
This was especially true in “Love, Death, What Else?” by Nathan Hall. The work spotlighted residents of the Spirit on Lake apartment building, which was founded by Barbara Satin as an affordable living space for LGBTQ elders. In a video, Satin talked about the ways the vision for Spirit on Lake broadened to encompass other communities in need of affordable housing. Other residents talk about loneliness, living with HIV, navigating fear, finding love, and a host of complexities woven together with quiet specificity, humor and pathos by Hall. It was a compelling work, rich with character and soaring melodies.
Besides the Hall piece, the choir also performed the percussion-heavy “When Thunder Comes,” commissioned by One Voice in 2016. The latter has been performed over 100 times around the world since the choir held its world premiere. That kind of impact is a testament to Ramseyer Miller’s vision.Related Articles
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Next up for One Voice Mixed Chorus
What: “One Voice with the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11
Where: O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, 2004 Randolph Ave.
Tickets: $5-40 at oshag.stkate.edu
Capsule: One Voice Mixed Chorus teams up with the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra in a
performance called “Passions.” The concert will include both groups performing Nathan Hall’s
“Love, Death, What Else?!”