Gay Men's Chorus artistic director moves on
After 26 years with nationally recognized Portland Gay Men's Chorus, Bob Mensel has plans to move on as artistic director.
What the next phase of his life will be is unknown. Mensel doesn't want to call it retirement, and he and PGMC haven't cited the reason for his departure, but suffice to say his name has been synonymous with the chorus.
"I'm sad to step away at this point, especially since I didn't make it to my intended retirement in 2022," he says in email responses to the Tribune. He refused an interview personally.
"And I leave with so many goals unmet. Still, I'm happy with what I have accomplished across my tenure. While I'm not calling it 'retirement,' I don't have any specific plans at this time. Somewhere in the future, I'd like to help younger artists achieve their dreams. But, in the meantime, I'm just closing one door to see if another will open."
He and PGMC have been preparing for his final concert, "Stonewall Riot! Soundtrack to a Revolution," 7 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at Keller Auditorium, marking the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking protest in LGBTQ history in New York City in 1969. It's PGMC's annual Pride concert.
Mensel didn't want to address some topics, but wrote about satisfying and rewarding times with PGMC.
"The most rewarding part of the job is taking a group of singers of various skill levels from point 'A' to point 'B,'" he says. "It's always been about the music. My philosophy has remained the same from beginning to end; the best way to reflect positively on the gay community is to be fabulous. And, for a chorus, we speak through the language of music. The aspiration 'to perfect the choral art' is the mission of PGMC, and it's what brought me here in the first place and kept me coming back."
He began with PGMC in 1993 as conductor and his title changed to artistic director after two seasons.
Mensel worked with Paul Scardina to create the Locomotions dance troupe, which made its debut in the 1960s-themed concert in spring 1994. He has overseen small- and large-scale commissions. The chorus has also recorded and released seven commercially and artistically successful recordings. He pioneered solo and classical concerts and melded genres with choral music.
The chorus has toured regionally, nationally and internationally. It was the first gay men's chorus to tour China recently. He led a regular schedule in rural Oregon and southwest Washington for concerts. He's currently a member of the board of directors of GALA Choruses.
He has received degrees from the University of Utah (undergrad) and University of Oregon (master's), as well as a doctorate in music history.
"There are many highlights across my 26 years, so it's hard to choose," he says, before singling out the performance of "BraveSouls and Dreamers" in New York City as part of the 10-year commemoration of 9/11.
Portland Pride Festival
When/where: Noon-8 p.m. Saturday, June 15, and 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, June 16, Waterfront Park
Parade: 11 a.m. Sunday, June 16; the 1.1-mile parade begins in the North Park Blocks and ends at Waterfront Park, and has more than 170 entries
Notable event: McMenamins and Crystal Hotel neighbors Scandals and Peacock Productions are partnering for the three-day Crystal-Pride Block Party with live music and more, noon-8 p.m. June 14-16, on streets around Crystal Hotel, 303 S.W. 12th Ave.