“I want Diana Ross to run down the street with me, asking everybody, ‘Can’t you feel it? Can’t you feel a brand new day?'”
Yes, Solomon HaileSelassie is indeed a huge fan of The Wiz. “It’s one of my favorite movies ever made,” he says. “And I can even talk to you at length about it…because I know all about The Wiz. I know more about it than I can possibly stand.”
HaileSelassie isn’t just daydreaming about taking to the streets to sing with Ms. Ross — this time. Right now, he wants to share in the gift of song to send a hopeful, post-pandemic message to his community and especially his found family.
“The song ‘A Brand New Day,'” he explains, “is sung by people who were freed from bondage asking each other, ‘Can’t you feel it? Can’t you feel a brand new day?’ It’s not just ‘Can you?’ It’s, ‘Can’t you feel it?… Can’t you feel how things are different, how things are better?’ Even though it’s shitty right now, it’s still a little bit better. It’s a nice way to exit, if we are really exiting, COVID.”
That optimistic message will be conveyed by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington next weekend as part of a concert in celebration of chosen, or found, families. Such groupings are often made up of “people from diverse backgrounds, people whose identities do not match each other,” says HaileSelassie, the show’s director.
“And as a gay man with a strained or nonexistent relationship with the family that I was born into, I have spent my life in art finding family. Your family is not just the people who raised you, they’re the people who you found in your bubble. They’re the people who you perform with on stage. They’re your pets, they’re your coworkers, they’re the people who you had to support over the past two years while the world ended, and while we tried to restart it.”
In addition to “A Brand New Day,” which also serves as the show’s title, HaileSelassie’s music selections come from a wide variety of sources, going beyond expected musical numbers and pop songs to include those performed in Spanish and Korean, as well as English. “I’ve included pieces that are not just secular but have a background in religion, a background in Native American culture.”
All of the organization’s vocal ensembles and its GenOUT Youth Chorus will perform in the concert, which will also feature new dances by the 17th Street Dance troupe. Special guest Linthicum-Blackhorse, an American Indian composer and Lakhóta Pipe-carrier, will lead in the performance of a traditional Lakhóta Sioux spiritual.
HaileSelassie sums up Brand New Day as “moving and weirdly inspirational” — in the sense of being something that will inspire you and give you hope as a kind of “balm in unsure times.” “It’s a beautiful exploration of what family means to us as an organization and to us as people.”
The Gay Men’s Chorus performs Brand New Day on Saturday, March 12, at 3 and 8 p.m., at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. Tickets are $25 to $65. Call 202-888-0050 or visit www.gmcw.org.
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