On this marvelous Monday in the Valley of the Sun–basking in the afterglow of a weekend of holiday performances with my gay friends here in Phoenix–I’m struck with this truth-seeking irony. After stepping out of the shadows in my thirties and forties and standing in the light in my fifties and sixties, I’m finally comfortable in my skin. Yet, I find myself being treated for a spot of invasive cancer on my left hand.
Tom escorted me to treatment #4 this morning. Like the first three, it was pain-free. Just the rigmarole of driving back and forth, wearing a protective flak jacket and goggles, and applying Aquaphor ointment and sunscreen religiously. I can handle that.
Escaping the darkness of an inauthentic life was much more complicated. At fifty-one, I remember the fright of auditioning with Windy City Gay Chorus (WCGC) in Chicago. Even back then, Tom encouraged me to sing again, though it had been decades since I’d performed on stage. I needed a fun, affirming and creative outlet away from work and parenting responsibilities.
In March 2010, a giant door swung open before me. I mysteriously and joyfully found myself singing with WCGC. Later that year I went on to perform in my first holiday concert with the renowned gay chorus … one of the founding gay choruses in the United States. At that point, I couldn’t have imagined I would develop lifelong friends there. Men and women I would share the stage with for seven years. Friendships Tom and I have carried with us across the miles to Arizona.
Now a new chapter standing in the light of the western sun. After yesterday, I’ve completed ten consecutive years of holiday performances. Seven as a tenor two in Chicago with Windy City followed by three more with the Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus (not withstanding a brief blip as a baritone).
Here in Arizona in a new choral community, I’ve befriended another sixty or so men of all ages and backgrounds. Some of them have stood by me (literally) while I recovered from a mild heart attack. For others, I have willingly given hugs and a listening ear as they fight to create whole and meaningful lives no matter whether their families of origin love and accept them or not.
On stage yesterday in my black tuxedo and red bow tie, grateful for the friends and family members who came to see us perform, I gazed out from the top riser into an enthusiastic audience of four hundred or so. Like a Rubik’s cube with all the right answers aligned, the clarity of the last ten years clicked into place.
The Phoenix Women’s Chorus, a talented group we perform with from time to time in Arizona, was singing on the apron of the stage. They repeated this lyrical refrain from “Stand in the Light”, a song written by Stephan Moccio and Lauren Christy (arrangement by Roger Emerson).
To stand in the light and be seen as you are.
This phrase captures the essence of why I sing with a chorus of gay men. Why I need to be a part of this community in an uncertain world sometimes fraught with surprising discrimination. More broadly, why the LGBTQ choral movement continues to matter for those of us who lived in the shadows for too long.
We must continue to step out of the darkness and sing for those less fortunate. With proper protection and plenty of sunscreen, we must all stand in the light and be seen as we are.
9 thoughts on “Standing in the Light”
Dash it, Mark, scrolling to find photo of you in tux and tie and it’s not there. Lovely and glowing like music
Thanks Kim! Look. New and improved version with tux and tie. Now you can truly see me standing in the light as I was on Sunday.
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Hi, Mark, thanks for sharing yet another side of you and your little corner of the world in a wonderfully written post! We were obligated to take part in a school chorus and perform all over the country and now that I look back on it, I realize that words could never describe the emotion and experience that washed over me while we were standing side by side on stage and singing our hearts out. Have a lovely festive season and I hope your treatment goes well. Aiva
Thank you, Aiva! There is something profoundly stirring about performing on stage with a chorus. It’s something we share. Merry Christmas to you!
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I still want to hear your tenor voice one of these days :). Thanks for sharing this. Much love from us in Montana!
One day you will, Kathy. Merry Christmas to you and Josh!
It has been a wonderful experience, these last ten years, as you found your voice again, and I got to be there. This is a nice tribute to those years, and to the friends we have made.
You’ve been there for all of it, Tom. I am forever thankful.