This Is How Far We've Come
I'm on tour with the London Gay Men's Chorus in America. We've been in New York. Now we're in Chicago.
We sang at an elementary school in Chicago today. Two shows. First to the lower school, then the upper school. With a workshop session in the middle with the school choir, including choreography.
This is when the London Gay Men’s Chorus is at its most powerful.
Imagine a gay choir singing in a school twenty years ago? Probably impossible.
The Alexander Graham Bell Elementary School is an American public school (state funded) in the North Center neighbourhood of Chicago. It has around eleven hundred students, ranging from pre-school to Eighth Grade. It celebrates its hundredth birthday this year.
As soon as we walked into the school on a bright sunny morning, you could sense it was a happy place. There was clear respect between students and teachers.
We performed numbers ranging from Sam Cook’s A Change is Going to Come to I Feel Pretty from West Side Story and Rodgers and Hammerstein's Keep it Gay. We opened with I Sing the Body Electric, based on Walt Whitman’s beautiful poem. I could see one of the teachers in the audience mouthing all the words as we sang.
As the lower school filed out after our first performance, one of the children shouted out “Good job!”
Our chairman is a former student of the school. He made a powerful speech about being different. There was a roar of applause from the students as he concluded: “it’s OK to be different”.
I spoke to the music teacher afterwards.
“Did any parents request that their children not attend the performance today?” I asked naïvely.
“No!” she responded, almost shocked by my question.
“We have a couple of kids with same sex parents here," she went on. "There are several gay or lesbian teachers in the school. We’ve come a long way.”
Too right we've come a long way. This was the highlight of our tour for me.