Complemented by a soft beam of light, a cascade of petals floated onto the Walt Disney Theater stage as the names of the 49 victims of the Pulse massacre were read aloud.
Tuesday night’s “Beautiful Together” performance, organized to benefit the OneOrlando Fund, brought nearly 2,700 Central Florida residents to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m.
Musicians, singers, dancers and poets from more than 60 Orlando arts organizations combined their talents to create the 80-minute piece. Despite their associations with different ensembles, the legion of musical talent was able to unite as one in less than two weeks.
Luis Martinez, the director of multicultural affairs for the City of Orlando, encouraged the sea of faces to band together on an emotional journey woven with mourning, love and hope.
“This is not a vigil — not a memorial,” Martinez said. “Tonight is for those of us who are struggling to make sense of these events as we attempt to move forward.”
The mass choir and orchestra performed a slew of musical numbers, including “Let It Be,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Clad in vibrant button-down shirts, the Orlando Gay Choir delivered a passionate rendition of “True Colors.” Conductor and UCF alumnus James Rode said the Pulse tragedy prompted singers across Orlando to express compassion through the performing arts.
“It was a real labor of love,” Rode said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Central Florida Community Arts Founder Joshua Vickery, an instrumental force in the creation of "Beautiful Together," gathered with other respected members of the performing arts community in the wake of the Pulse shooting on Sunday, June 12. They chose to respond to the tragedy in the best way they could — through the arts.
"We had so many organizations break down those walls and barriers [separating us] to say, ‘Whatever you need us to do, whatever you need us to bring to the table, we’d be happy to do it,’” Vickery said. “Our community is strong and unified. Every center for the arts was just happy to give back."
In a public Facebook status Vickery posted this morning, he voiced his gratitude and appreciation for a heartfelt performance that resonated with both the attendees and the performers.
"I am overwhelmed by what transpired last night at the Dr. Phillips Center … I'm so proud of the 60 plus organizations and hundreds of artists that reached out and the journey we all took together,” Vickery said. “Thank you so much. My heart is full. I pray it was a healing moment for our city. We are truly #beautifultogether."
Cole Nesmith of Creative City Project worked closely with Vickery in creating the powerful and sharp performance. As the creative director of “Beautiful Together,” Vickery was responsible for organizing its musical flow, ensuring that the score reflected the emotional aftermath of the Pulse shooting.
“You had to be there to feel it,” Nesmith said. “There was a clear moment of connectedness. The arts really help us connect our hearts.”
After just two rehearsals, Jeffrey Moore, the director of the School of Performing Arts at UCF, took center stage as a principle percussionist in the orchestra.
The soon-to-be dean of UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities said it is necessary for the community to have “a gathering point” in the face of adversity.
“Central Florida is such a spread out community, with Disney to the west and UCF to east,” Moore said. “Where do we go? Where can we all go to get together? The arts bring us together, and the Dr. Phillips Center is the Center for arts and community.”
Shana Medel is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaM@CentralFloridaFuture.com.