When I was 11, I would listen to “Hair” by Lady Gaga over and over. The song made me feel understood, seen, and, oddly enough, safe. Perhaps it was the exultant tones of the song that I believed were celebrating my sexual identity. Back then, however, I had no choice but to hide that pride I felt while listening to the pop stars’ track alone in my room for myself only.
This year, as I sit in the fifth row at the Arvada Center, I am able to share this celebration alongside a full house as we await the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus performance of “Divas, Icons and Justice Warriors.” The performance is a tribute to the music of legendary women that have and continue to influence the queer community. And yes, Gaga was a part of this iconic lineup.
What made this performance all the more special is that it was the first Pride event I’ve attended since coming out. It was the perfect event to embrace the celebration, that many others in the LGBTQ+ family, have been forced to keep hidden for so long.
Denver Gay Men’s Chorus reveled in the celebration of Pride Month through their performance, and I’m sure the legendary women they honored would agree that they outdid themselves and succeeded in defining the celebration that is Pride Month.
With James Knapps leading the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus in his final concert as artistic director, this show promised to inspire and celebrate pride in its full array.
From Barbra Streisand and Gaga to the late Tina Turner, Patsy Cline, and Whitney Houston, the choir touched on the decades of impact these divas have had on the LGBTQ+ community.
Each song performed was followed by a background photo presentation of the artist, including why they had been considered a “diva” and their contribution to the community.
Believe me when I say, these “chorus angels” did these songs justice. Drag performers brought the crowd to never-ending applause. Stories shared by choir members emphasized the importance of music in the LGBTQ+ community, and acknowledged the ongoing issues. “This program is a story, not a show,” the emcee stated during the intermission between performances.
Many in the audience became quite emotional as the night progressed. We all felt a sense of pride—that many in the community may have repressed in their queer experience for so long—come to life on the stage.
When it came to the choir’s performance of “That’s What Friends Are For/Greatest Love of All,” singer Darin Stewart took the stage to share his connection with the song and artist Whitney Houston. His story was reminiscent of the secret relationship I had with Gaga’s track.
“For many, these are songs that touched us like hymns at a revival,” Stewart said. And for many like Stewart and I, these songs give us the strength to keep pushing forward.
While many may question how music is essential to the LGBTQ+ community and Pride Month, this moment Stewart shared highlighted the impact these artists and their words have had on queer folks.
The Denver Gay Men’s Chorus brought us together and celebrated every person in the room collectively through music and the soundtrack of finding one’s true self.
These divas have spent decades advocating for LGBTQ+ folks, and cheers filled the air for the choir honoring those efforts. Standing ovations left the audience eager for what was to come next, chanting pleads for an encore.
As the show concluded with “Last Dance” by Donna Summer, the choir crowded the front of the stage to dance with the standing audience. Rather than the curtain closing, it presented a reminder that this was not the end of the show.
Celebration and Pride go on even as the theater empties out. For those, such as myself, who felt emptiness after years of hiding, the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus performance of “Divas, Icons and Justice Warriors” is sure to fulfill the heart of Pride and its intention to celebrate. The Denver Gay Men’s Chorus performs again on June 9 and 10 at King’s Center Concert Hall at Metropolitan State University. Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.