“Harvey Milk” Comes to Minneapolis

By Shane Lueck March 6, 2014

Categories: Arts & Culture, Featured - Home Page, Our Scene

I Am Harvey Milk
Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus
March 28 – 29, 8:00 PM
Ted Mann Concert Hall, University of Minnesota

As one of the original co-commissioning choruses behind the I Am Harvey Milk production, Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus (TCGMC) brings the show to Minneapolis for its area premiere. The twelve-movement work begins when Harvey is eleven years old and then progresses with a movement examining each month in his tenure on the board of supervisors. The work is non-chronological and impressionistic, even including a song sung from the point of view of the bullet that killed Milk.

“Harvey Milk was passionate that every gay person needed to come out, to live proudly, and to give hope to those in our community who are struggling. The members of Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus do each of those things every time they sing in public,” says Dr. Ben Riggs, TCGMC’s Artistic Director. “We have recently witnessed exciting victories for our community; but there are still children being bullied and abandoned because they are gay, there are still businesses who want the right to refuse us service, and there are still rampant hate crimes being committed against us. The life and work of Harvey Milk continues to inspire us to create change by sharing our stories and giving hope to our community.”

The idea for the commission of this piece began as the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC) approached their 35th anniversary season. The first public performance of SFGMC was at an impromptu memorial held in the wake of the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone in November 1977. SFGMC went on to inspire the formation of gay men’s choruses all over the country, including the Twin Cities’ own.

Riggs says, “Our participation in commissioning I Am Harvey Milk seems especially appropriate to the origins of TCGMC, as well as the global LGBT choral movement.”

TCGMC echoes that camaraderie with its history of community outreach and partnering with youth choirs. For I Am Harvey Milk, TCGMC features the voices of the Minnesota Boychoir. “Hosting the Minnesota Boychoir this season continues our commitment to outreach and collaboration with young people in the community,” says Riggs. “It seems especially appropriate to partner with a youth choir at a concert commemorating Harvey Milk, who encouraged us to come out and share our story with everyone around us, including our younger generation.”

As tragic as the story of Harvey Milk is, there are difficult themes present in the production, which combines choral performance with theatrics. According to Riggs, one of the greatest challenges with I Am Harvey Milk lies in confronting some of the inherently difficult themes in the piece such as violence and hate speech. For example, one of the movements entitled “Sticks and Stones” has lyrics primarily consisting of gay and racial slurs alongside the profound statement, “Sticks and stones can break my bones. Names can really hurt me.”

The gay subculture of San Francisco in 1977 played an integral part in Harvey Milk’s life and work.  Riggs argues that although his story is regionally specific, Harvey Milk’s ideology and inspiration are universal. Another of the movements is called “San Francisco,” a hymn-like piece that is filled with reverence and awe for a city in the 1970s that offered solace and hope to lost souls. Riggs says, “In today’s world there are many places like San Francisco — for some of our younger TCGMC members the Twin Cities represent that place where they have come to find community, to find hope, and most importantly, to find themselves.”

For more information, head to www.tcgmc.org.

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