A groundbreaking new piece of music explores the perspective of the Gen Z LGBTQ+ community. The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus will perform the world premiere of “@Queer Z” this Saturday night at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts.
Donald Milton III is artistic director of the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus, and he joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about the new lineup and his upcoming performance.
Highlights of the interview follow below.
Music exploring Gen Z queer life from an expanded perspective:
“It’s nice to see how many things have changed for the better and yet how much work still needs to be done, you know, it’s so beautiful to hear from a younger generation and to learn from this space, things that we wouldn’t have thought in our own spaces. So this piece is about what it’s like to be queer right now, and as even that definition of homosexuality develops in beautiful ways, it introduces the idea of media social and how it has changed everyone’s lives and our whole landscape…”
He continued, “But it also has universal themes, like how to choose an after-school activity or, you know, this new thing that all of our kids have to do, like active shooting practice and tough stuff like that. But also, I think Gen Z, in its glory, is doing a better job than any generation before it of empowering people to be themselves – not to hide behind anything or norms. cultures and to simply love what you love and be who you are.
Composer Julian Hornik tackles school shootings, gets ‘unmasked’ and gets disavowed:
“[These topics are] the reality of gay children growing up. The percentage of gay children who are kicked out of their homes when they come out of the closet is still shockingly high, and there’s a movement about what happens to a child. And then what does it lead to, it’s terrible, and it’s sad, and it’s heavy and difficult. Now there is no movement around a school shooting. It’s a move on the specter of a school shooting. It’s about the fact that every day our kids have to worry about this active shooter training. Milton added, “I mean, because we’re a queer choir, our whole organization went through active shooter training a few years ago… That’s terrifying in itself. You don’t leave feeling good or safe. You leave feeling bad, and our kids do that every year and it’s a tragedy.
Milton on his passion for performing new works of composition:
“I read something in ‘The Robert Shaw Reader’ when I was 20. ‘The Robert Shaw Reader’ is a collection of letters from Robert Shaw to the ASO choir. After that, he wrote every night after rehearsal. They mimeographed them and mailed them the next day. “Dear People…” and in one of his letters he wrote – they were probably creating a whole new piece of work – and he said that a musical director or a conductor has to determine the amount of new music that its audience can bear, and play as much plus ten%. And it just hit me.
“When I was 21, I started a choir that only did music from the 20th and 21st centuries. So commissioning is near and dear to my heart, but commissioning is also a game; you roll the dice. You hope it’s good, and I’ve been in commissioning projects that were good. I was part of a commissioning project that was bad and never played, but this piece is so amazing. I know it’s going to be performed by choirs all over the country, all over the world,” Milton said.
The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus performs “@Queer Z” at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts on October 15. Tickets and more information are available at www.voicesofnote.org/event/queerz.