Emotional Rollercoaster

Today was another fun-filled day at the theme park.

No, I’m not talking about Six Flags Great America or Walt Disney World. This is RcktLand. And this park’s theme centers around the world of an everyday gay man living in a big city. It features such spectacular shows such as The Drama Queens, The Game Players and Oh No She Didn’t!; restaurants such as Bitter Party, Table for One, Eat Your Words and What Else Do You Put In That Mouth? and rides such as The Mood Swings, The Battling Egos, and everyone’s favorite thriller, The Emotional Rollercoaster.

Today in RcktLand, the day started out sunny and bright. Prospects were pointing toward a decent day in the park.

Boarding The Emotional Rollercoaster, you aren’t quite sure what lies ahead. The ride is pretty much hidden under cover from view. You have a pretty good idea it’s going to be a wild ride, but until you actually ride the thing, you have no idea how many steep drops, loop-de-loops and corkscrew twists you will encounter. Best to just strap in and enjoy the ride. Or not.

The first hill took the form of an event at Sidetrack, as the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus unveiled the DVD of its Holiday, 2004 performance of “Fa La La Blah Blah Blah.” The event was closed to Chorus members only, since the video is only an archival memento of the performance for members only. But it was still fun to see everything that happened on stage as it looked to the audience.

I was part of a small group that did the song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” I hate seeing myself on screen for the most part. I looked like the Hippo we were singing about. Ugh.

But overall, the video was fun to watch… especially the “outtakes” at the end, which feature Chorus members mugging for the cameraman backstage and at the closing night party. We are a crazy bunch.

Climbing this hill was fun, but now I’m at the top. I can see that the drop is pretty steep. I’m ready for anything, though. I brace myself as the ride crests the hill and begins its descent…

Larry’s funeral was today. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The Chorus was slated to sing three songs– “In Whatever Time We Have,” “Arise, My Beloved” and “Seasons of Love.”

“In Whatever Time We Have” by Stephen Schwartz, is one of the Chorus’s standard repertoire pieces that we have been performing since our Pride show in 1999. We performed it again for Pride in 2000 and also at GALA in San Jose that same year. It is absolutely one of my favorite songs that we do. Patrick did the arrangement and it’s still one of his best ever. “Arise” is a song that Patrick wrote based on a passage from “Song of Songs” in The Bible. It’s stunning. We performed it at last year’s Pride show and also at GALA in Montreal.

“Seasons of Love,” from Rent, has been part of our standard repertoire since Spring of 1997. When I joined the Chorus in 1998, I auditioned for one of the solos in the song and have been performing it fairly regularly ever since. The song was included in the Chorus’s new CD, “I Will Be Loved Tonight,” and I am singing the solo (with my friend Jeremy) on that as well.

Today was no different. I could have told Patrick that I wasn’t able to perform the song, but I think that I would have regretted making that choice. I could only do my absolute best for Larry. He deserved that, and I wanted to make sure he would hear me singing just for him.

As it turned out, the mass was absolutely beautiful. The combination of our music and the rest of the music chosen for the mass, along with the witticisms of the officiating priest and some incredibly moving comments by a nun friend of Larry and his partner Rob, as well as some thoughts from Rob and Larry’s brother, turned what could have been a long, drawn-out sad affair into a truly affirming and celebratory night of remembering a dear friend.

The church was absolutely packed to the gills, and there were easily between 70 and 80 members of the chorus in attendance. Truly a remarkable representation. I was moved by the sheer number of people who came to pay their respects to such a wonderful person. There were political dignitaries, family members of all ages, and friends from all walks of life.

Truly, Larry’s passing was incredibly sad. But the life he led is so powerfully affirming. The man just had so much gusto for life. One of the people who spoke said that when you got Larry involved, you got ALL of him. This couldn’t be more true, and remained true up until he was too sick to do what he wanted to do.

The nun who gave the moving rememberance of Larry did so just before we sang “Seasons of Love.” I was doing pretty good up until then, but after she spoke, we were absolutely sobbing. And then we were given the signal to stand up and sing. Oh great.. of course! So I held on tightly to my friend Jeremy’s hand on the left of me, and Chad’s hand to the right of me, and we sang with more power and energy than we ever have before. And when it came to my time to sing alone, I took the deepest breath I could and just sang… I sang loud, proud and strong for my friend Larry and his family. I sang for my friends. I sang for those in attendance whose lives were touched by such a remarkable man.

“In the truth that he learned
In the times that she cried
In the bridges he burned
In the way that he died…”

My voice may have cracked a bit, but I just put more power into it and gave it my all. And when I was done, I felt a wonderful sense of love. As if I was being hugged. By Larry, by my friends, my family… I shared my gift of song with them all. Just as they shared the gifts that Larry had given to them all with his life.

I may not have much money, and may not be the best when it comes to giving gifts in the material sense. But I have the gift of music to share, and I feel that sometimes that gift is more tangible and remembered. If I can share that gift with someone who touched my life, then it’s a gift well-given.

The ride is ending and the train is coming into the station. Please keep your arms and legs and all other extremeties inside the train until it comes to a full and complete stop. We hope you enjoyed your ride on the Emotional Rollercoaster and enjoy the rest of your day at RcktLand. Have a nice day!