GLENDALE— The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles performed a somber musical tribute Saturday evening to gay men and women who have recently committed suicide after being bullied, and it struck an emotional chord with some local high school graduates.
Chorus members placed a single red rose on a lone white stool in honor of men and women who were tormented for being gay and later killed themselves.
"It shows a sense of support," said 19-year-old Glendale High School graduate Vaheh Gabri. "It shows a sense of pride and acknowledgement. It's really a big necessity, especially in Glendale."
Being gay in Glendale is challenging because it's not often discussed publicly.
"It's not open at all," said 18-year-old Areg Hoshiar, a recent Glendale High graduate.
Hoshiar and Gabri attributed the lack of an openly gay community in Glendale to it's large religious and immigrant population.
"It tends to be extremely hostile for anyone who is [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning]," Gabri said. "I think this big homophobia is based on total ignorance."
The chorus' message gives gay men and women confidence and hope, Gabri said, adding that it would help people better connect with each other.
The chorus's annual "Comfort & Joy" holiday concert drew hundreds of music enthusiasts, including 180 high students from Glendale, Burbank, Temple City, Hoover, Bravo Medical Magnet and John Marshall high schools.
Broadway star Sheryl Lee Ralph made a special appearance during Saturday's performance. Country singer LeAnn Rimes was scheduled to perform Sunday with the chorus.
The 180-member choir performed classic holiday songs, including "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World." The group danced during some acts and also put on a black-light puppet show.
"Each year, they get better and better," Gabri said. "They surprise me every single year. I don't know how where they get all this inspiration."
Having only nine weeks to rehearse, the chorus studied their music once a week for three hours, Conductor Tim Seelig said.
High school students got to watch the concert for free, which was sponsored by the chorus' Alive Music Project, said Lee Pitts, the chorus's production and outreach manager.
The chorus has introduced the project to local high schools in an effort to teach students about bullying, hate and discrimination, he said.