Dr. Stan Hill joined the GALA Choruses movement in 1989 with a passion that has been unequaled. He has contributed an enormous body of work in the past 23 years.
Jumping in with both feet in 1989 as the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in his first five months he led them through performances with the national convention of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a gala AIDS benefit concert at Davies Symphony Hall with Jerry Herman, Carol Channing, Lauren Bacall, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet, and the cast of Les Misérables.
Under his leadership the SFGMC hosted many celebrity artists from Nel Carter to Megan Mullaly to Deborah Voigt to Carol Channing. He produced 10 CDs during his tenure counting among them commissioned new literature now called, by most authorities, warhorses of the GALA movement. Ask anyone that has attended a Festival concert by the SFGMC and they will all recite lasting and vivid memories.
Stan joined the SFGMC in the dark days of the AIDS pandemic. Survivors of that era talk of his endless vigils at the bedside of so many members. The chorus became the healing voice of the community singing countless memorial services. They honored their fallen members, by calling out the numbers lost, at every GALA Festival performance. Stan’s incredibly difficult task as Artistic Director was to help his men cope with the enormous loss and keep on singing. They not only survived but have thrived.
In 2000 he announced his retirement, but then he heard about a job opening in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. Could he survive real winters and “Minnesota Nice” in a place he later described as “the choral center of the universe”? He applied and the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus excitedly accepted.
One of Stan’s famous mantras is “if we don’t tell our stories who will?” In 1990 he began his quest for outreach with a Christmas Eve concert at the Castro Theatre that became an annual event. The number of outreach performances he has led now numbers over 50. He has taken his choruses on outreach adventures from Sydney, Australia to the Grand Ole Opry and every small town in between. Capping off their 25th Anniversary season, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus embarked on the “Great Southern Sing-Out Tour” through five cities in six days in July 2006. Kicking off the tour in Nashville’s prestigious Ryman Auditorium, the chorus became the first gay organization to perform on the historic stage. From Tennessee, three busloads of chorus members and supporters traveled to Birmingham, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana. And a new chorus grew out of that visit to Mobile.
At every concert he asks the audience how many have never heard the chorus before, and tells those that haven’t they are now part of the family. He’s had the audience standing in the aisles dancing to ABBA and crying while singing Walk Hand in Hand. He’s heard a suburban dad at the Mall of America tell him he didn’t know there were that many gay men in the Twin Cities. Another Stan mantra is, “we are the best face of the gay community”.
As SDGMC Artistic Director Gary Holt has said about Stan, “Not since Gary Miller has there been a GALA artistic director so passionate about, and committed to, the creation and commissioning of socially relevant gay experience-centric music. From the Seeley trilogy (Naked Man/Exile/Metamorphosis) to the more recent Shaieb Kushner Trilogy and Through a Glass, Darkly, Stan has brought not only new music but new composers into our midst.” His CD/DVD collection now numbers 20 and his swan song is no exception as he brings Michael Shaieb’s Out of My Range and Other Age Related Performance Issues to GALA Festival 2012, exploring the relationships between gay men from five generations brought together by our movement.
And then there is Stan the teacher. From his roots as a school teacher he has led countless GALA workshops on vocal production and traveled from Madison, WI to Houston, TX to coach and inspire individual choruses. He has been a consultant to the GALA Festival staff on how to get the best sound in some challenging concert halls. As Holt says, “He is always the first person to remind us at every GALA gathering that we must never forget that the “C” in “GALA” (his running joke) stands for “choral singing”. For our mission to thrive, our choruses and artistic leadership must be well-trained, and that the goal of artistic excellence must drive every decision we make. One of his great legacies in GALA is the generosity of his spirit and of his time, which causes him to offer that same mentorship to all GALA artistic directors seeking assistance.”
As GMCW Artistic Director Jeff Buhram says, “When I think of people who have had a profound and lasting influence on the gay and lesbian choral movement, Stan Hill immediately comes to mind. Gay choruses use music to share our history…to tell our stories. Stan has singularly been responsible for commissioning some of the most important new choral works for men’s chorus during his tenure with the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. From NakedMan to Through a Glass, Darkly these choral works have changed the lives of many chorus members, their friends and families. The recordings of these works live on, continually touching new hearts and minds. Gay men have come out proudly, dealt with illness, and grown in many different ways from singing and/or listening to these new works. Stan has broken new and difficult ground – he has challenged us to look within ourselves and at the world around us. Finally, Stan has been an eloquent spokesperson for the LGBT choral movement. No one is more deserving of the Lifetime Achievement Award than Stan Hill.”
Congratulations to Dr. Stan Hill, recipient of the GALA Choruses Lifetime Achievement Award.