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San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus will close season with ‘80s-themed performance ‘Get On Your Feet!’

The San Diego Gay Men's Chorus returns for its first live season after the pandemic.
(Courtesy of XPOZD Photography)

On July 30 and July 31, San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus will wrap up its first live season in two years at Balboa Theatre with the performance of ‘Get On Your Feet: An 80s Celebration!’

For Charles Beale, the song “Get On Your Feet” by Gloria Estefan is more than an ‘80s anthem — it’s a call to action.

It’s also the title track of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus’ (SDGMC) upcoming concert “Get On Your Feet: An 80’s Celebration!,” the first live performance directed by Beale as SDGMC’s new artistic director.

“We are in a time where the LGBTQIA+ community needs to be on its feet,” Beale said. “It needs to be out there representing and vocalizing, going, ‘We’re here.’”

On July 30 and July 31, SDGMC will wrap up its first live season in two years at Balboa Theatre with performances of “Get On Your Feet: An 80’s Celebration!,” a show developed to put diversity, community and activism in the spotlight, according to its organizers.

Along with “Get On Your Feet,” the show will feature music from Eurythmics, Whitney Houston, Kenny Loggins, Janet Jackson, the Pet Shop Boys and more.

“It was daunting coming into it because there is such a broad canvas of music — where do you even start?” Executive Director Jeff Heine said. “So the idea that we’re presenting is a show that has a theme, that has a message, that speaks totally to our mission as an organization. And I’m really excited about that.”

Central to the setlist is the element of choral activism. Before Beale joined the chorus, plans for an ‘80s-themed performance were already in the works, Heine said. However, when Beale and Heine began collaborating on the concert, they knew they wanted it to be more than a “jukebox show of greatest hits,” according to Heine.

“We’ve tried to take the idea of the ‘80s and, first of all, make it an activist show, but also make it a hugely entertaining and rich show with lots of different perspectives,” Beale said. "[The show is] like a mosaic — all LGBTQ, all queer, all interesting.”

In order to represent the diversity of its local audience, SDGMC’s show will include the performance of a song in Spanish and another in Tagalog, with the lyrics projected in English. When selecting these songs, Beale turned to the chorus’ Spanish and Tagalog-speaking singers, asking them to choose songs that they want to perform.

“I want to make sure the voices that can get marginalized in choirs get to be heard in our choir so that everybody has an equal seat at the table,” Beale said.

Similar to other arts organizations, SDGMC has struggled significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While they were able to stay open with the help of federal and state programs, SDGMC faced two years of show cancellations, singers leaving the group and no ticket revenue.

“Singing is really powerful. It creates a huge change in people’s hearts and minds,” Beale said. “But, right now, singing is also one of the most dangerous things you can do. COVID is a continual stressor that sits in the back of our minds every day.”

Given the nature of choral performance, Beale recognizes that singing is a “super-spreading activity.” With this in mind, SDGMC maintains strict COVID testing protocols and masking policies.

As their first live season in two years nears its end, Beale and Heine look toward the future with enthusiasm and caution.

“I remember at the end of that first concert [after two years with no live performances], when the curtain came down, I don’t think there was a dry eye on stage,” Heine said. “The singers were very emotional. I think it hit them at that point, what they had just accomplished after all this time. The odds really are against us every time we perform right now, during COVID. [Being back is] a major victory. It’s cathartic.”

While “Get On Your Feet: An 80’s Celebration!” represents the end of a concert season, it is also SDGMC’s way of saying that not only has it returned, but it’s also rebuilding.

“Of all the songs in the show, [‘Get On Your Feet’] says, ‘we’ve all been through some really hard times in the last few years, haven’t we?’” Beale said. “‘Let’s all share what those hard times have been and then let’s get together as a community, get on our feet and fight.’”

‘Get On Your Feet: An 80’s Celebration!’

When: 8 p.m. July 30; 3 p.m. July 31

Where: Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave., San Diego

Tickets: $30.50-$75

Online: sdgmc.org


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