Yesterday we went to see a performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Roy Thompson Hall, it’s a tradition of ours and we both really enjoy it. We left early enough to get lost in the streets of the financial district, another tradition, even with all that we were in our seats about a half-hour before the oratorio and we both busied ourselves reading the program, seeing who the soloists were this year. The mezzo-soprano had a dynamite resume and the tenor’s was unusual in the frankness it dealt with his sexuality and his involvement in the LGBT movement. We had seen him before in Hadrien, a new work by Rufus Wainright and knew that he had a stellar voice.

The lights dimmed, the crowd fell into an anticipatory hush and then came in the first violinist, the conductor and the 4 soloists. The mezzo was wearing something a bit unusual, I’m not good at describing clothing. She wore a kind of flowing golden brown trousers and a black top. After some applause, they sat down. She sat with a straight back and her legs were comfortably set, apart, not pinched together.

People were non-plussed by this. Even after she sang, with a voice that could bring down brick and mortar, It was stunning to hear her sing. I greedily looked through the program counting out the number of times she would be singing. She brought passion and artistry to the stage. When the tenor got up to sing, several people glanced at his bio and realized that he was out and proud and gay. The pointed to the bio and passed it around, while he was singing beautifully.

At intermission all I could hear people talking about was how ‘distracting’ her posture was and how they wished they hadn’t read the gay man’s bio – “that stuff shouldn’t be shoved in our faces.” I sat back in my chair and grinned. Being oneself is still controversial. Being different is still an act of defiance.

The fact that these people were roiling in judgment at an oratory called, “the Messiah,” you know the dud that hung around with people that most would ignore.

Another gift of the season, seeing people, of remarkable talent, dare to be who they were. That’s what the fight had been for, and those that follow us, are still fighting, in arenas we never thought possible mere years ago.

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