The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising has been celebrated in many ways in recent months.
It was noted musically at the Ordway Concert Hall on Saturday evening.
"Quiet No More" is a new choral work by six different composers, co-commissioned by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles to celebrate the catalytic importance of Stonewall for the gay rights movement.
Two days after its first New York performance in Carnegie Hall, the One Voice Mixed Chorus gave "Quiet No More" its Midwest premiere in a concert titled "Resistance and Resilience."
Unusually, the program sought to link the gay rights movement with the historic struggle for black civil liberties and started with a selection of spirituals and pieces from the Justice Choir Songbook.
Leading the choir was guest conductor Tesfa Wondemagegnehu, co-editor of the Songbook and a fervent advocate of addressing social justice issues through music.
Wondemagegnehu has a mellifluous tenor voice and led the choir and audience in a rousing call-and-response rendition of Melanie DeMore's "One Foot/Lead with Love."
His own arrangement of the classic spiritual "I've Been In the Storm Too Long" had dramatic bass drum underpinning, and "Steal Away" emerged fresh and atmospheric in a finely nuanced performance by One Voice's bass and tenor sections.
A series of spoken reflections by Minneapolis writer Joe Davis plucked themes of solidarity and togetherness from the music and teased commonalities from the experiences of gay and black people.
"Quiet No More" occupied the second half of the evening. Part secular oratorio, part song cycle, its first four sections focused on the confrontations between police and the gay community that sparked the Stonewall riots.
Prerecorded voices were interwoven with music in the opening "Prologue: It was the day" by Michael Shaieb, and Shaieb's "The Only Place That You Can Dance" recalled the Stonewall Inn as a mecca for the New York gay community despite its down-at-the-heels appearance.
Shaieb also contributed "Gotta Get Down to Downtown," whose pulsing dance beat carried both excitement and intimations of violence.
The scream of sirens cut across the choral textures, and One Voice members ad-libbed contributions to the babble of the riot.
From there, "Quiet No More" turned more reflective, meditating on the aftermath of Stonewall and the rapid burgeoning of LGBT activism that followed.
Both "And We Walked" and "What If Truth Is All We Have" began as thoughtful solos, while "We Are a Celebration" and "Speak Out!" (written by One Voice's artistic director Jane Ramseyer Miller) had a jazzy, upbeat groove that spoke of optimism for the future.
Accompanist Mindy Eschedor was a tower of strength and sensitivity at the piano, and Wondemagegnehu drew performances of vigor and conviction from the 100-plus singers.
"Quiet No More" is ultimately a joyful piece, not militant or confrontational. It has a message for our day, and One Voice delivered it in heartfelt fashion.
Terry Blain is a freelance classical music critic for the Star Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.