Singer-songwriter Matt Alber, a San Francisco favorite and former member of Chanticleer, will perform at Feinstein’s at the Nikko on April 13 and 14. But while he’s been hard at work on a new recording, Alber’s mind is focused elsewhere for the time being.
A couple years ago, in his new hometown of Portland, Alber was introduced to Erik Gullickson. As it turns out, that chance meeting was the first step toward a passion project that has taken up a large part Alber’s creative life ever since. After chatting about their shared dedication to music and LGBT causes, Gullickson invited Alber to attend a rehearsal of Bridging Voices (www.bridgingvoices.org), the five-year-old community chorus for gay, straight and questioning youth for which he serves as Artistic Director.
“Hearing these kids trying to figure out their identies are and understand who they are through singing was incredibly powerful,” recalls Alber.
Within a month of meeting them, Alber was featuring Bridging Voices along with the NYC Gay Men’s chorus in a performance of his song “Monarch” at the GALA Festival, a national gathering of LGBT choral groups.
“Monarch”, with its poetic lyrics about growing into one’s own (How long was I asleep?/All these colors opening/Like bright kaleidoscopes of waking dreams) is now an integral part of Bridging Voices’ repertoire, which expands as the group’s 75-plus members submit songs that articulate feelings they’re experiencing in their lives.
“They choose all kinds of music,” says Alber. “From Pink and Hamilton to queer indie acts. They listen for songs that have an authentic, powerful message in them.”
After working with the choir through the soul-crushing final months of the 2016 presidential campaign, Alber says, “In my gut, I was asking myself what I was really doing to make the world a better place. I started to think about how to share some of the experience the kids in Bridging Voices are having with kids and parents and teachers beyond Portland.”
Alber turned to his close friend, filmmaker Jon Garcia (creator of The Falls trilogy, a series of fictional films about Mormon
Alber and Garcia are first releasing an eight segment web series, called Room to Grow, on Revry, a new LGBT digital video channel (www.revry.tv). The webisodes, which be released weekly beginning in late April and will be free to view, will focus on a single member of Bridging Voices, sharing stories of both troubles and triumph.
Meanwhile, they’re continuing to raise funds for a full-length Room to Grow feature that will weave some of the webisode material into the larger story of the choir as a whole (www.roomtogrow.org).
Among the donors who have helped make the web series a reality are longtime fans of Alber and his music who will surely turn out in force at Feinstein’s.
“I’m continually agog at how loyal my listeners are,” he says gratefully. It’s a big gay family at my concerts.”