«I expected there would be some who were not in favour of this concert … but freedom of speech should never be discriminatory or abusive,» Ms Chia wrote this week. She has since been inundated with messages of support.
Ms Chia told the Herald: «It was right to call it out, silence condones unacceptable behaviour, and some comment crossed the line and were discriminatory. This work is not a satire, nor is it disrespectful of anyone’s faith, including mine. It has been performed in venues worldwide, including churches and cathedrals. Music has the power to heal. That’s why this concert will proceed.»
The American composer of the work Holcombe Waller, who arrived in Sydney for rehearsals last week, has performed it many times since he wrote it in 2012, including at Carriageworks in 2016 and last year in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral to rave reviews. He said this is the first time his work has attracted such a «wave of criticism» and the first time a presenting venue has had to officially defend its decision to host.
«This sentiment — ‘the Sodom and Gomorrah comes to Sydney’ sort of thing — often comes out, but this hellfire and brimstone sort of response, the fear of God sort of thing is right out of the Bible,» he said.
Mr Waller wrote the piece when he learnt the Catholic and Mormon churches were the main financial backers of a California voter initiative in 2008, which blocked gay marriage in that state.
«It seems so hypocritical, every church organist I know in America is gay,» Mr Waller said.
«The church is often a refuge for people, but even the most liberal church spaces are filled with oppression and ‘hiding oneself’, to say nothing of the churches where they’d take you out the back and throw rocks at you for being gay.»
The acapella arrangements for the show range from Freddie Mercury-style singing solos to instrumental and spoken parts. It’s high camp meets High Church, part religious ceremony and ritual, part musical comedy, he said.
“Catholic ceremony at its heart is fabulous – but it’s so darkly applied,” said the Silicon Valley-born singer/composer. “We lighten it up with a gay and lesbian touch.»
Next week’s performance assembles 44 singers, from the Sydney Chamber Choir and its conductor Sam Allchurch, the Mardi Gras Community choir, a nine-piece band and speakers including broadcaster Julie McCrossin. It is intended to be one of the musical highlights of the two-week Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which starts this Friday, and culminates in the parade on Saturday, March 2.
Requiem Mass: A Queer Divine Rite is at City Recital Hall is on February 21.
Helen Pitt is a journalist at the The Sydney Morning Herald.