Singing comes naturally for Lynne Barstow and before joining Congressional Chorus, she sang exclusively in LGBT choirs.
She met her partner of 22 years, Leslie Pionke, in a gay chorus in Los Angeles and joined the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Washington “before our boxes were even unpacked,” upon moving here 20 years ago.
“For us, it was the best way to meet people and become active in our community,” the 58-year-old Los Angeles native says. “For many years we performed in the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop’s annual Gilbert & Sullivan productions. Now the Congressional Chorus is my choral home and I have 80 new friends, gay and straight, who share the joy of performing a wide variety of music. I am constantly in awe of the talent that surrounds me.”
Congressional Chorus opens its 32nd season on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 4:30 p.m. at Church of the Epiphany (1317 G St., N.W.) with “Poets, Painters & Dreams: an afternoon of music and dance inspired by Marc Chagall, Sara Teasdale & Langston Hughes.” The chorus will be joined by dancers from the Joy of Motion Dance Center.
“It will lift the audience into a musical dreamscape we could all use right now in these overly plugged-in political times,” Barstow says. “Turn off CNN and spend an afternoon instead with the love poems of Sara Teasdale and the fanciful imagery of artist Marc Chagall.”
Barstow, who sings second alto, says her favorite piece on the program is “Dreams,” composed by Chorus accompanist Chris Urquiaga.
All three composers will be in attendance. Tickets are $32-39 ($19 for students). Upcoming concerts in 2019 are slated for March 23 (“Jazz Hot!”), June 1 (“Let Justice Roll”) and July 3 (“Civil Rights Concert Tour”). Details at congressionalchorus.org.
When she’s not singing, Barstow works as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines. She flies to Europe weekly with Delta and moved to Washington after “a very persuasive woman I met in a lesbian bar on a layover almost 30 years ago convinced me D.C. was the best city on the East Coast.”
They live in Capitol Hill with daughter Ryanne. Barstow enjoys travel, long bike rides, “pretending to” play the banjo and “keeping up with my German and Russian language skills” in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out at age 24. No guilt, no hesitation, just elated to tell my parents I had fallen in love. The fact that “she” was not a “he” seemed a minor detail to me. After all, my uncle was gay and we all loved him. If they struggled with my news, they never showed it or attempted to sway me otherwise. Hardest person to tell? My 14-year-old sister, who was mostly concerned I would never be a mother. Read on.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
My newest LGBT hero just stepped out of Kansas last week and into Congress. Watch out, America! Sharice Davids, Native American and lesbian, is in the House!
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Alas, the Phase and the Banana Cafe here on Capitol Hill are now history, but rather than sit home reading the Gay Bar obits, I think I’ll surprise my partner with a Saturday date night at Cobalt. (I know about it, because I just Googled it.)
Describe your dream wedding.
My idea of a dream wedding would be going to someone else’s dream wedding. Even though I consider myself a romantic and cheer our right to marry, I’m also a Sagittarian. The only aisle I’ll most likely ever walk down in this life will be on a Boeing 767.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
My family would tell you I’m out to save the planet one straw and plastic bag at a time. It’s easy to stress over the minutia of recycling, but the big picture is we do need to become more aware of protecting vulnerable marine life and our oceans. Don’t get me started on to-go cups and polystyrene containers!
What historical outcome would you change?
If only those 19 men had decided the night before to take a reflective nature walk under a starry September sky, they might not have ever boarded those planes.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
My first girlfriend and I lived in Santa Monica in 1995 and became obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial. We went downtown to the courtroom three times to watch the proceedings and see who we would run into in the ladies room. I still have a drawing that the court sketch artist signed and gave to me.
On what do you insist?
The list is long, yet I will narrow it down to these: kindness, reading, exercise, your headphones being off when I talk to you. And, oh, would it be too much to insist on a POTUS who respects core American values?
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
The day before the midterms, I posted the flyer to our upcoming Congressional Chorus concert: Poets, Painters and Dreams. “Make your voice heard Nov. 6th and we’ll make our voices heard Nov. 18th!”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
My life published in two volumes: Volume I: “Ready For Take-off!” Volume II: “Just Landed. It’s Good To Be Home.”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Don’t fact check me, but I feel quite confident that an impressive number of LGBT scientists employed in genetic research would never allow this to happen. As a back-up plan, however, I would enlist every PFLAG chapter across the country (led by Betty DeGeneres) to march wherever our proud mothers and fathers are needed to change minds.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I’m a student of “A Course In Miracles.” I believe a shift in perception from fear to love will awaken us to God, our authentic selves and ultimately to inner peace. Our souls are eternal; our bodies a suit of clothes we take off at the end of our earthly journey.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Please share the resources we have here in D.C. with towns and cities across America. Whitman-Walker’s Insemination Support Group helped us realize our dream of motherhood. Rainbow Families, a few years later, introduced us to families who looked like ours. At the Rainbow Family Conference in May, our daughter, Ryanne (13), spent the entire day with the Teen Group and never once rolled her eyes. In fact, she loved it. These services are indispensable.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
I would crawl across hot coals to eradicate the reckless, tragic use of guns in our culture and heal the fear and hate behind every pulled trigger.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I hear there are folks in this country who feel LGBT people are unfit to be parents. That is annoying. Apparently they haven’t met the dozens of loving, stable same-sex families we have had the good fortune to know across the DMV.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
Hands down, the movie that came out the year I did — “Desert Hearts.” If you start me thinking about that motel scene, I might not be able to finish this interview.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Anything that involves men, beer and elite college parties. I hear this combination can sometimes lead to a lot of trouble down the road.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Time to reveal my reality TV addiction. I would covet the chance to outwit, outplay and outlast my ridiculously buff, good-looking teammates to earn the title of sole “Survivor.” It would make my mother and daughter endlessly proud. My partner? She would be too busy watching “Downton Abbey” to notice.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
At 18, I wish I had known how much I’d miss my grandparents after they died. All the questions I would never get to ask them, the stories left untold. Every person is a living library, they say. Don’t be so busy, young person, that you forget to check out these most valuable books right in your own family.
Remember that persuasive woman I met in the lesbian bar 30 years ago? After she introduced me to Kramer’s Books and Afterwords Cafe, there was no way I was going to move to New York!