Early this March, the Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus took to the woods for our annual retreat, which has been held for the last few years at the beautiful Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma. More than just a series of intensive rehearsals, the retreat is a way for the chorus members to connect, to welcome our newer members, and to become more bonded. For the weekend, we all lived together like a family.
The facilities were absolutely amazing. We all stayed in two-person rooms spread over three cabins across the ranch. We had everything provided for us, including three meals a day in their dining hall, and all the while could look out our windows at the rolling green hills, the dense woods, and even some of the creeks running through the area. It was a beautiful spot for a vacation, and made all the singing we did that much more enjoyable.
We spent a good portion of our days rehearsing for our upcoming show in April, Prairie Homo Companion. It was quite a change of pace from our normal Oakland rehearsals. In addition to our workshops like music theory and sign language, there were four practices that weekend, instead of our normal schedule of once per week, so we were really able to dig into the music in a new and deeper way. As we sang we would watch families of deer stroll by the windows, and we even seemed to summon a torrential bout of hail with our last song on our last day—fitting, somehow.
Sharing the Ranch with us was another group, the Moonlight Quilters of Sonoma County, whom we would see several times each day during our meals in the dining hall. These were some of the nicest people we have ever met. Twice they popped in to see us rehearse, they showed us their absolutely gorgeous quilting projects, and at the end of the weekend they gave us a quilted coaster for each and every member of the chorus (we even had enough for the guys who couldn’t make it to the retreat). It was such an amazing gift that we decided to sing them a farewell song during our final lunch together. What a blessing it was to be sharing the space with such a great group.
However, the highlight of the entire weekend was undoubtedly our talent show. Our three lovely hostesses, Melania, Kellyanne, and Michelle, added a much needed dose of hilarity to our weekend, and set the stage for our talented members brave enough to perform in front of a room full of performers. Beautiful songs were sung, amazing dances were danced, and it’s safe to say that we all felt closer after sharing our talents with each other. One member sang a wonderful song with piano accompaniment and included some expert tap dancing, another performed a mezmerizing rainbow flag dance (the word “wow” could be heard uttered from the audience about a hundred times during that dance), and three of our guys gave us a preview song from their upcoming cabaret show. It was a very special evening, and makes moving forward in this group bursting at the seams with talent all the more exciting.
All in all, this retreat was an amazing experience. This chorus continues to shine by utilizing the creative expertise of its members. From the writers who wrote out the hilarious skits featured in our spring concert, to our resident expert in sign language, to the incredible movement skills of our more agile preformers, this has come to be about so much more than the songs that we sing. Our sense of togetherness and love for each other and what we do permeates our live preformances, and indeed everything we do, and we are absolutely thrilled about our next opportunity to bring that love to our community.
Check out everything we’ve been working on at our next concert, Prairie Homo Companion, April 29-30 at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.
Written by Joey Raven for Then Oakland East Bay Gay Men’s Chorus.