Q&A: PGMC’s Joseph Buches

The artistic director talks to us about a world premiere at the upcoming concert this week

Joseph Buches celebrates PGMC's 30th anniversary season (courtesy of PGMC)

For the past 30 years, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus (PGMC) has been making music with meaning. And for the latest concert (March 30 at 8 p.m. and March 31 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.), the chorus premieres a new piece called “Metamorphosis” during “Changes: In Good Time” as part of the anniversary season. Written by Robert Seeley and Robert Espindola, the music explores life through a song cycle – revealing unique experiences of the gay community. It’s the first time the music is being performed in Philadelphia.

Joseph Buches, PGMC’s artistic director, talked to us about how the original music reflects the chorus during the past three decades – and how this season pays tribute to stories within the LGBT community.

How does “Changes” reflect PGMC’s 30th anniversary?

We sing about our lives. We tell our stories. We keep alive our history, both the good and the bad – the joy of coming out and the pain of oppression. The story of this performance is one of growth – the trip from birth to acceptance of our true selves. It is a journey we all have taken, although some of us went through some of the steps quicker than others!

What can we learn from the new work?

We tell this story for the young lesbians and gays just starting out on their journeys. We tell this story for all of our straight friends so that they can see just how similar we all are. And we tell this story to remember it, for it is in our past that we find our future.

Can you give us an example of how “Metamorphosis” reflects this anniversary season?

In the words of “Metamorphosis” composer Robert Espindola, “We sing for the voices yet unheard in some far distant time. We sing for the voices echoing still of our sisters and brothers left behind. Shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, our history is kept alive. So sing with us, our song of joy, the legacy of our lives.” This concert is symbolic of all the changes that the PGMC has been through over the past 30 years.

Three decades have brought about many important changes in the LGBT community including the AIDS crisis and the post-Stonewall experience in a broader cultural context. What have some of the highlights been for PGMC?

Growth in the membership. Growth in the audience and production value. The use of large orchestras for performances and performance in some of the great performance halls in Philadelphia – and residency at the Prince Music Theatre.

How many men currently belong to the chorus today?

Around 120 with 90 singing in this concert.

What might be expect for the future of the chorus – besides maybe a few more Gaga tunes?

Funding for the executive director to lead the group administratively. And our final concert in our 30th anniversary season is “Legacy: Celebrating 30 Years Towards Harmony,” a concert of musical favorites from the past 30 years. We will also premiere a new choral work – music by our own collaborative accompanist Michael Djupstrom with the libretto by PGMC member and local journalist Chip Alfred. This concert will take place on June 15 and 16 at the Prince Music Theatre.

“Changes: In Good Time,” March 30 (8 p.m.) and March 31 (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.), Prince Music Theatre, 1412 Chestnut Street, 215-569-9700.