The Artistic Director of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, Dr. Stan Hill, is getting ready to retire. Tonight and tomorrow mark the last performances he’ll direct here in the Twin Cities; he’ll direct the chorus for the last time at the GALA Festival in Denver, Colorado.
In advance of his departure Dr. Hill was kind enough to answer a few questions about his career and the work of gay choruses in general.
1. Why are you retiring now?
Because I will be 66 in August, because I have had twelve wonderful years here in MN and because I am a California kid and my family is there.
2. Before leading the TCGMC, you spent 11 years with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Why are GALA choruses important? Put differently, what can they offer that other choruses can’t?
If we don’t tell our story, who will? The legacy of the GALA Choral Movement is not only that when they sing a specific text, such as a gay men’s chorus singing “the Man I Love,” it takes on an entirely new meaning, but also that we can tell our own story by commissioning new music that tells our story.
3. Looking back, how have GALA concerts and their audiences changed over the years?
It has helped thousands become aware of gay men as almost anything other than the stereotypes with which society has painted us. The audiences here in the MidWest honestly appreciate choral music because of the rich choral traditions of St. Olaf, Luther, and other. And so a choral concert attracts choral music lovers. But when they attend a TCGMC concert, they leave with a greater appreciation of the GLBT community having shared our loves, our thoughts and our passions.
4. I understand that while you were in San Francisco, you had to deal with the loss of many chorus members due to AIDS… now you’re retiring just as Minnesota takes up the Gay Marriage Amendment. Any thoughts on how the quality of life for gay men has changed (or not) over the course of your career?
There is no question that being gay does not have the onus that it did when I was a teenager in the 50s and 60s. However, we have a long way to go. As long as hate and prejudice, and attitudes of “otherness” still exist, the chorus has a job to do.
5. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add or think I should know?
My retiring is merely the turning of a page in the rich and wonderful story of TCGMC. It is my hope that our wonderful audience and the thousands of supporters over the years will continue to support TCGMC. I think the chorus is the best face of the gay community and with that support it can continue to grow and develop into one of the most dynamic and positive components of our society as a whole.
(Photo of Dr. Stan Hill by Paul Nixdorf)