“California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas, “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor, “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas — just a few of the not-so-typical selections the Congressional Chorus will perform on its upcoming “Road Trip!” concert.
The show will be performed March 16-19 at Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St., N.E.) and tickets are already sold out for the Saturday night show. With 80 singers, dancers and a seven-piece band, the performances will continue the Chorus’s tradition of incorporating dance and visuals with traditional SATB (soprano/alto/tenor/bass) choral singing. Details at congressionalchorus.org.
“‘Road Trip!’ is a high-energy production that celebrates the diversity of America’s popular music from Detroit’s Motown classics to New Orleans’ jazz, Memphis soul, Chicago blues and more,” says David Simmons, artistic director of the chorus since 2006. “Escape reality for a night and come join us to pop the top and go cruising across the USA.”
Formed in 1987, the Chorus singers work hard practicing every Monday evening for three hours along with eight Saturdays throughout the year. Simmons also directs a chamber ensemble, youth chorus and senior chorus under the Congressional banner. About 180 singers are involved in the various ensembles. Simmons says about 20-25 percent are LGBT.
Simmons, a 50-year-old Fleetwood, Pa., native, came to Washington in 1988 after a stint interning for U.S. Sen. John Heinz. He lives in Eckington and is in a relationship with Michael Polscer, who lives in New York.
Despite his often “all-consuming” job, Simmons enjoys walking, architecture and design and seeing shows and concerts in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Like many people, I came out in stages. First to close friends, then family, then co-workers, etc. I slowly came out to these different circles of people between 1993-1996.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Harvey Milk because he was willing to speak out in such a loud and public manner in an era where that took a tremendous amount of courage.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Trumpets, which used to be on 17th Street back in the 1990s. I think I am partial to it because I met my first boyfriend there one Tuesday night in April 1993.
Describe your dream wedding.
Someplace outside with a beautiful view, surrounded by close family and friends. Probably up in the mountains of Pennsylvania somewhere. Michael and I both have deep family connections to the Pocono Mountains, so perhaps somewhere in the Poconos.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Performing Arts Education for children! Everyone should be exposed to and have the opportunity to participate in the performing arts during their entire K-12 educational journey.
What historical outcome would you change?
The outcome of the 2016 election so that Donald Trump was not sitting in the White House.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The debut of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album in 1982. The effects of that album on the music industry and our popular culture in general are absolutely profound. I even remember playing the piano part to “Billie Jean” in our high school jazz band in 1983.
On what do you insist?
Hard work, dedication, excellence and pride in your craft, which for me is the art of choral singing.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
A Facebook post about Trump’s Russia connections.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Wait, we have time for one more song!”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Nothing! I am a proud gay man.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe that our spirits continue on in a different type of realm after our physical bodies expire.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Focus on reaching out beyond the beltways and the east and west coasts of our country. As difficult and uncomfortable as it might be, they need to wade into the parts of this country that were solid “Trump” country and reach the hearts and minds of those people.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My loved ones.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
Any type of LGBT stereotype annoys me! There’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter” gay person.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Beautiful Thing” from 1996. I had just come out and it really touched me.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Wearing ties daily to work. They serve no purpose and should be saved for special occasions.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I don’t really “covet” any trophy or prize, but I would like to conduct a Carnegie Hall concert at some point in my career.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I had realized the importance of “schmoozing” in my career and the importance of not being afraid to “toot your own horn” sometimes.
It was politics and the study of law that initially drew me to Washington in the late 1980s, but it has been the performing arts that has kept me here and nurtured me in Washington for the past 30 years. Wow! I can’t believe it has been three decades!