Diversity: the Voices of Sarasota will celebrate its 15th anniversary as a revered gay-friendly Southwest Florida chorus by presenting “From Gershwin to GALA” at the Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center at Holley Hall. The concert will be a preview of Diversity’s performance at the GALA Choruses’ Festival 2012 held in Denver, Co. GALA Choruses, an international association of GLBT choir groups, holds such a festival every four years, attracting 180 singing groups and 5,000 singers from around the world. In the past, Diversity has participated in GALA festivals in Montreal and in New York City at Carnegie Hall.
Artistic Director Derek Edward Weston plans to commemorate Diversity’s role in GALA by selecting pieces for the Holley Hall performance that illustrate how the chorus has evolved over the last 15 years. “Through this journey, the music has changed from the songs of the civil rights movement to some of the inspirational projects that are commissioned by GALA Choruses today,” Weston states.
Diversity is comprised of more than 50 male and female singers, gay and straight alike. Executive Director David Phillips said he feels the combination of fellowship and talent from every walk of life is what gives the choral group its edge.
Phillips took a few moments to speak with TWIS about Diversity and what to expect at the Holley Hall concert.
TWIS: Tell us what initially compelled you to participate in Diversity.
David Phillips: I was attracted to the chorus because I studied music all my life. After I retired, I moved to Florida and auditioned. I’m one of the charter members, joining when the chorus began in 1997. Back then it was called The Gulf Coast Men’s Chorus. We combined with Harmony: The Women’s Voices of Sarasota in 2008, becoming Diversity. We hold auditions throughout the year, and people can become involved by visiting the website.
TWIS: What is the Diversity rehearsal process like?
Phillips: We have rehearsals every Tuesday night. The Artistic Director preselects the material and hands out the sheet music. We rehearse at St. Andrews Church and each rehearsal lasts about two hours.
TWIS: What kind of highlights can we expect at the Holley Hall performance?
Phillips: We have everything from George Gershwin to Cole Porter numbers. We’ll also be singing “What a Wonderful World” by Nat King Cole. Then we have songs such as “Singing For Our Lives” and “The Great Peace March” by Holly Near. Plus we have excerpts from West Side Story. The selections are comprised of tearjerkers and some songs for laughs. The Diverse Experience, a core group of 10 people within the chorus, will have some special selections as well.
TWIS: In the past, what has participating in the GALA Choruses Festival been like?
Phillips: There are thousands of singers there, and each chorus gets a half-hour to perform. It’s a great big event held in huge concert halls. There’s a tremendous amount of camaraderie when the chorus performs. It’s an amazing experience, and I feel honored to be a part of it.
Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota – “From Gershwin to GALA”
Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, Holley Hall
709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL, 34236
May 19, 2012 – 8 p.m.
Tickets are $22 in advance at diversitysarasota.org or by calling (888) 550-6279. $25 at the door.