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Home for the holidays

Paul Andersen

As far as Joe Quinn is concerned, the high point of the Gay Men’s

Chorus of Los Angeles’s recent Russian/European tour came at a concert

given in Tallinn, Estonia, a city with a rich history of choral music

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that goes back centuries.

“At first, the reception there had been polite and reserved,” says

Quinn, a Glendale resident and a member of the chorus since 1993.

“We had just begun singing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ and suddenly people

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began standing up, holding hands. It was amazing. Here we were in a

country that has had to fight hard for basic independence many times

over the years, and people were getting it! They understood.”

Quinn pauses.

“It still makes me teary-eyed to think about it. It was a beautiful

moment, and I’ll never forget it. It reminds me that what I do with the

chorus is one of the most important things that I do with my life. We

change lives. What I do daily doesn’t.”

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The chorus has made it home in time to celebrate the upcoming holidays

at its annual annual holiday show, “Joys of the Season,” which will

have three performances at The Alex Theatre Dec. 17 through 19. The

engagement also marks the beginning of the chorus’s 21st season. As

usual, it will be a festive production featuring international carols,

traditional holiday repertoire and audience sing-along.

“We will have members of the chorus out in the balcony for the first

two numbers,” explains Jon Bailey, conductor/artistic director of chorus

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since 1987.

“And we will be featuring our special guest, Joanna Gleason, in a trio

of fully staged numbers.”

It will be the Tony Award winner’s second appearance with the chorus.

“Yes,” Bailey says with a laugh, “there is a certain theatrical aspect

to our shows. But our hope is to showcase excellent music in a

presentation that fits, putting the pieces of music into context.”

The trip encompassed concerts in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tallinn,

Helsinki and Berlin, and in Russia the chorus had to contend with the

fact that there is no direct translation for the word ‘gay.’

“Light blue is associated with homosexuality in Russia,” says Quinn,

who has been singing since grade school.

“There was an audible gasp from the audience in St. Petersburg when we

came out dressed in that color. Yet afterwards, they were asking for

autographs.”

Quinn came home with a new appreciation for the life that he leads

here in Southern California.

“Over in Russia, people were curious as to what gays look like,” he

says. “Obviously, they found out we look like everyone else. But I feel

so blessed. I lead a charmed life compared to how a lot of people live

over there.

“And besides,” he adds laughing, “here at home you can find cold

medicine everywhere.”

IF YOU GO:

WHO: The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.

WHAT: “Joys of the Season” 1999 Annual Holiday Concert, featuring

special guest Joanna Gleason.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 17 and 18; and 3 p.m. Sunday,

Dec. 19.

WHERE: The Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale.

TICKETS: $15 to $35.

PHONE: (800) MEN-SING.

SEASON: The season continues with April concerts featuring brass and

pipe organ at four Southern California churches, and concludes with a

tribute to composer Harold Arlen at The Alex Theatre July 7-9.


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