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Heartland Men's Chorus celebrates Harvey Milk's legacy in combined chorus shows

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Heartland Men’s Chorus and Gateway Men’s Chorus will present I Am Harvey Milk March 29 and 30 at the Folly Theater in Kansas City with additional performances in St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri, when the two choruses of gay men combine their talents and efforts to honor and celebrate the life of Harvey Milk, slain gay rights icon and legend.

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Written by Tony® and Grammy Award® nominated composer Andrew Lippa (Broadway’s The Wild Party, The Addams Family and Big Fish) I Am Harvey Milk tells the moving story of Milk’s life from his childhood to his assassination.

When Milk won an election for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. Milk served almost 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On Nov. 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor.

Milk became an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community, even though his tenure as an elected official was short.

“What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary,” Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him.”He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.”

Milk was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Heartland Men’s Chorus joined five other gay men’s choruses across North America to commission I Am Harvey Milk in 2013, thirty-five years after Milk’s assassination.

“It’s not a straightforward biography,” says HMC’s executive director Rick Fisher. “The songs touch on universal themes including bullying, activism, and the building of community.”

Each chorus will perform brief individual sets with a repertoire inspired by Milk’s quote, “You gotta give ‘em hope,” then come together to perform Lippa’s I Am Harvey Milk.Soprano Sylvia Stoner, tenor Tom Lancaster as Harvey Milk, and Cam Burns as the young Harvey, join the combined choruses, numbering over 200.

The Kansas City performances will be conducted by Dr. Tim Seelig, who conducted the 2013 world premiere production in San Francisco, a Heartland Men’s Chorus spokesman said. Milk’s story is entwined with the history of San Francisco as well as the history of the LGBT choral movement: the candlelight vigil on the night of his assignation in 1978 marked the first public performance by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

“This is not a story specific to San Francisco,” Seelig said. “This is about a man who stepped forward and did something remarkable –even though he was not particularly remarkable by most accounts. It is about a man who became a hero and a martyr for what he believed. Composer Andrew Lippa’s goal was that every single person who hears this will somehow resonate with the person who was Harvey Milk and look for the part of Harvey within them.”

Heartland Men’s Chorus and Gateway Men’s Chorus present I Am Harvey Milk at 8 p.m. Sat., March 29; and again at 4p.m. Sun., March 30 at the Folly Theater, 300 West 12th Street, Kansas City, MO. Tickets are $15-$40 and can be purchased online through their website: hmckc.org or by calling 816-931-3338

The choruses will present an encore performance at 8 p.m. Sat,, April 5, at Washington University’s 560 Music Center, 560 Trinity Ave, St Louis, MO. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at www.gmcstl.org.

The choruses will present a free preview performance at 7p.m. Sat., March 8, at Missouri United Methodist Church, 204 S 9th St, Columbia, Mo. Presented by the University of Missouri LGBTQ Resource Center. The performance is free and open to the public.

Program notes with information on the concert, Milk’s life, political career and assassination are available online at www.hmckc.org/milk.

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