DENVER — A sense of excitement fills the air during warm-ups ahead of most performances; and that goes for the Denver Gay Men's Chorus on a brisk Friday night in Denver.
"We really wanted to have a theme of fun and joy," said James Knapp, the Managing and Artistic Director for the group.
Knapp is entering his final season performing with the group, and the annual holiday performances typically leave the crowd with a sense of holiday cheer.
"We crafted a program with a lots, lots of variety of things, from classical music to pop music," he said.
Admittedly, Knapp believes finding the joy has been tough, but hopes this year's performances of "Haul out the Jolly" will also provide a sense of understanding.
The morning after the tragic shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Knapp says they decided to go on with their typical Sunday rehearsal, but added time to grieve.
"We had a gathering at 5:00 - a grief circle. And people could come and they could share their anger, their rage, their fear, their sense of hopelessness. And so it was facilitated by two wonderful therapists in the chorus. So it gave a people a chance to really share their hearts and give a sense of solidarity for our group and also for Colorado Springs," he said.
The group filmed their performance of the song "Like A River In My Soul" in honor of those impacted, and it will be heard again by audiences who view the upcoming holiday performances.
"And probably… the most important phrase in that song is 'when your hope nearly dies, remember, once again, you shall rise.' And so it's just inspiring hope again," Knapp said.
He often encourages the group's singers to translate their real life experiences to their energy when singing.
"It's affected all of us," said Knapp. "And to draw upon your own experiences of joy, of fear, of insecurity only add to how you can bring that to the music."
At performances in Denver, Knapp explained that there will be more visible security with Denver police officers present.
This week, he says that officers came in to speak with the chorus about safety plans if needed.
"They have been wonderful to work with, very understanding, very accommodating, wanting to help, wanting to bring a sense of security not only to our singers but to our patrons who are coming," he said. "The world's a sad place in many ways right now that it's come to this, but it's also the reality of the situation. And it's important to us that we ensure the safety of our singers and our patrons and that we create a space that will deter any kind of action like that."
Overall, Knapp hopes to fill the crowd with joy, but also acknowledgement.
"I hope that we bring them a lot of joy and that they have a lot of laughter. And they also go with a sense of understanding … the importance of making a difference in the world and the messaging of ‘take action’ to make our community, our city, our state, our country and our world a better place," he said. "I think it's important that people understand that we are not going to step back. We're going to step up. We're going to stand up. And we're going to sing in solidarity."
Performances will take place in Denver, Boulder and Highlands Ranch over the next several weeks.
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