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Gay Men’s Chorus marks Stonewall with ’60s soundtrack

Artistic director Aaron Howe conducts the New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fifty years ago this month, the Stonewall riots ignited the gay rights movement across the country.

The New Mexico Gay Men’s Chorus will commemorate that pivotal event with “Stonewall – Summer of ’69,” its annual pride concert, in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque next weekend.

Many choruses are celebrating the anniversary through music specifically written about Stonewall. But director Aaron Howe decided to go for the soundtrack of the time.

“Some of them did commissioned pieces,” he said. “I decided what I wanted to do was re-live the moment.”

Considered the catalyst for the gay rights movement, the uprising erupted outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village after police raided the club known as the only gay bar in New York that allowed dancing.

The program will weave together that story with the music of the ’60s. The chorus will sing arrangements of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People,” the Association’s “Cherish,” Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” and the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” among others.

The singers will acknowledge Broadway with “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha,” “Before the Parade Passes By” from “Hello Dolly” and, of course, “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine In” from “Hair.” Motown will get a nod with “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” by the Four Tops.

Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” offered Howe another link. Although Gentry never explained the motive for the suicide described in the song lyrics, a 1976 film adaptation claimed it was because the title character was gay.

Additional musical time warps include Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by the Hollies and “One” by Three Dog Night.”

“If anybody likes the music of the ’60s, they’re going to love this,” Howe said.

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