By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com August 21 2012 4:00 AM ET
To the uninitiated, spending an evening in Hollywood Forever Cemetery probably seems spooky. But the cemetery — honoring the lives of Hollywood heavyweights like Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield, Cecil B. DeMille, and Fay Wray — has actually become the place to be on summer nights to watch movies and dance to Los Angeles's top DJs. For the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, it's also an opportunity to raise funds and awareness.
Locals will gather on the lawn Friday night to sing along to Moulin Rouge! with the chorus. Proceeds will benefit the It Gets Better Project as well as the chorus's own Alive Music Project. As the Gay Men's Chorus enters its 34th season, the organization also realizes the role it has played in breaking down barriers of prejudice. Through its Alive Music Project, members of the Gay Men's Chorus have been traveling to schools to teach children about equality and acceptance through the unifying power of music.
Lee Stickler, the Gay Men's Chorus's youth outreach coordinator, said gay students who lobby their schools to bring in the chorus are the ones who receive the greatest benefit from the program.
"It is quite empowering for LGBTQ kids to have a captive audience of their peers as they welcome GMCLA at the start of a presentation," he said. "All the students are surprised and relieved to see so many different faces, young and old, talking about their jobs, coming out, or their passion for music, and sharing personal stories without shame or apologies."
The Gay Men's Chorus also helps young people attend their concerts, which range from a classical repertoire to flashy Broadway numbers.
"Many students who attend our full concert performances, free of charge, have never been inside a professional theatre or concert hall and are excited to pose for pictures with our members and post about it on their blogs or profiles," Stickler said.
But of course, the Alive Music Project has a deep impact on members, many heading back to high school for the first time since coming out or moving on in life.
"For many of our singers, going 'back to high school' as an out and proud gay man allows them to rewrite their own history," Stickler said, "as many of us struggled silently as younger people, when we questioned not only our sexuality, but our safety and even our sanity."
For more information on the Moulin Rouge! sing-along on Friday, visit GMCLA.org/Moulin-Rouge. The Advocate is a media sponsor of the event. For more on the Alive Music Program, watch the video below: