New York City Gay Men's Chorus - I Joined the Chorus (2000)

And except for the discontent part, that pretty much sums it up. That was the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, and from their CD from 2000 called "New Century Songbook," that was "I Joined the Chorus." This is JD Doyle and on this edition of Queer Music Heritage my goal is to cover the gay & lesbian choral movement, which I believe is an important part of our culture. So that encompasses its history, social, educational and political aspects, and the support it gives its members in creating a safe place, a place to just be themselves.

This project has been a bit daunting to me, because I really wanted to do it justice, so my internet site will include several additional hours, over nine in all, which will cover some of the special music commissioned by various choruses over the last 30 plus years. And there will be segments on the music of international choruses, a special segment on the story of the Houston Gay Men's Chorus, and, as this is November, Christmas music. But this first hour will try to give you the history of the movement, and will include a special interview with Dr Tim Seelig, well-known for his 20 years as director of Dallas' Turtle Creek Chorale. But, back to the beginning.

I want to give credit to two choruses that formed prior to when the gay & lesbian choral movement really got started. In 1975 Catherine Roma formed the Anna Crusis Women's Choir in Philadelphia, the oldest chorus affiliated with this movement. While they identify as a feminist chorus, they did join the organization GALA, Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, in 1988. In 1977 in New York City the Gotham Male Chorus was formed, specializing in Gregorian chant and Renaissance music. They changed their name in 1979 to Stonewall Chorale. This was done when women joined the group, making it the nation's first gay and lesbian chorus. I've got some music from both of these groups, starting with Anna Crusis, from their first recording, in 1987. Under this introduction was their song "Bread and Roses" and now here's their take on the doo wop classic, "Forever Loving You"

Anna Crusis Women's Choir - Forever Loving You (1987)
Stonewall Chorale - Beat Beat Drums (2007)

From the cassette tape by the Anna Crusis Women's Choir called "But We Fight For Roses Too" that was "Forever Loving You." Did you notice the line "when you're near me I feel so gay"? And the Stonewall Chorale has released no recordings, so I want to thank its current Director, Cynthia Powell, for getting me a song from 2007 from their archives. "Beat Beat Drums" is a Robert Vaughn Williams anti-war piece based on a Walt Whitman poem.

For the real breakthrough in gay chorus history we have to give credit for inspiration to the gay bands that had formed in early 1978. In San Francisco Jon Sims founded the San Francisco Gay Freedom Band as a response to the Anita Bryant campaigns, and bands in Los Angeles, New York City and Houston had formed by the next Spring. Also in 1978 Sims formed the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. Here was history, as it was the first openly gay-identified choral organization. In short, it used the word Gay in its name.

It held its first rehearsal on October 30, 1978 and they had a rehearsal scheduled for the evening of November 27th. Instead that day yielded their first public performance, an impromptu one, as they participated in a memorial service at City Hall for George Moscone and Harvey Milk. They sang this song, "Thou Lord Our Refuge" which they later recorded at their 25th anniversary concert in 2003, and I'm going from it to the song "Stout Hearted Men." This was recorded at the one year anniversary of the deaths in November of 1979, and I thank the San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Historical Society for providing this track, the oldest recording I know of by a gay chorus.

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - Thou Lord Our Refuge (2003)
San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - Stout Hearted Men (1979)

So right away, while perhaps not thought of when the choruses were formed, they stepped up to meet a need for healing. This happened again in November of 1980 when the New York City Gay Men's Chorus sang at a memorial for victims of a shooting at the gay bar The Ramrod, in Greenwich Village. And of course this would be magnified many times over in succeeding years in responding to the toll taken by AIDS.

Shortly after the San Francisco chorus was formed, other cities followed, such as Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis and others. And a bold move by the San Francisco chorus led to even more. In June of 1981 they went on tour, visiting 9 cities around the country, and they coupled this with the release of the first recording, called "San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Tours America '81." It was easy for me to pick what song to play from this album. It's the song "We Kiss in a Shadow" and it is from the 1951 Broadway musical "The King and I." I've read that the sentiment of the song, having to hide a love, was taken to heart by gays and lesbians of that time, making it an underground anthem, and over the years it's been sung by many gay choruses. On their tour it was met with many tears from audience members.

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - We Kiss in a Shadow (1981)

The San Francisco chorus in their tour planted the seeds of choruses in a number of other cities, and even in cities not on their tour. According the website of the Vancouver Mens Chorus, several men came down to Seattle to watch the San Francisco chorus perform and took that idea back to Vancouver and formed a chorus. And in 1981 there had already been discussions among a number of choruses about forming an organization, and representatives from 12 choruses met in Chicago to lay out the plans. At the first Gay Games, in San Francisco in 1982, a choral festival was held in conjunction, with 14 choruses attending, and the organization was officially founded. At the closing ceremony of the games the combined choruses sang together, and what an act of unity and vision and inspiration. I think that really began the gay & lesbian choral movement. The organization was called GALA, Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, and the first festival was held in 1983, with 1200 individuals from 12 choruses participating. I think it's amazing that a movement could get its start so quickly and grow so rapidly. Festivals are now held every four years and the last two, Montreal in 2004 and Miami in 2008, were each attended by over 5000 members. And the GALA website lists 172 different choruses as members of that organization.

In studying the recordings of gay & lesbian choruses, I found it interesting that up through 1989, there were only six recordings released, and that includes one by the feminist chorus Anna Crusis. It's fair to comment though that those were the years before the compact disc, and it was less feasible for a private organization to release its own recording. Still, I think it's neat that the second recording didn't even come from the United States. In mid-1981 a group in Sydney, Australia, started performing. They called themselves the Gay Liberation Quire, and spelled quire q-u-i-r-e. In 1983 they issued a vinyl EP with four songs and called the release "Hormones or Jeans, The Gay Liberation Quire Goes Down on Vinyl." This next song by them has often made my Christmas shows. Here's "God Help You Merry Dykes and Poofs."

Gay Liberation Quire - God Help You Merry Dykes and Poofs (1983)
New York City Gay Men's Chorus - O Tannenbaum (1983)

After Sydney's Gay Liberation Quire was Christmas in a more traditional vein, as done by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus on their first release, in 1983, called "Festival of Song." They followed that recording quickly with another the next year, with an obvious title.

New York City Gay Men's Chorus - New York New York (1984)

From 1984, the recording was called "New York, New York, A Broadway Extravaganza." And the last of those six recordings is I think a surprising one. Who would have expected a 45 rpm record by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, singing the "49ers Fight Song"?

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - 49ers Fight Song (1985)

From 1985, that was kind of a love song to some guy named Joe Montana. Sports, I guess. And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. Again, that's at, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Friday night/Saturday morning from midnight to 4 am, on KPFT; it's Queer Radio, with attitude.

Before I get to my special interview, I want to mention one of the political struggles of choruses in the 80s, and that involves the American Choral Director's Association, a group devoted to promoting excellence in choral music and performance. They hold conventions and to be invited to perform choruses submit a blind audition tape, one that does not give the chorus' name. In 1984 the New York City chorus got an invitation, but were not allowed to use gay in their name in the program. That issue came up again the next year, when the Los Angeles chorus got an invitation, and this time, with the help of the ACLU, they took the ACDA to court. When it was settled any chorus could use its full name and the ACDA changed its policies.

I want to slip in a short song from 1990, and it's from a release not really billed as a chorus CD, but I'm counting it as one. It's a tribute to women's music artist Therese Edell, and the CD is simply called "For Therese." For it MUSE, Cincinnati's Women's Choir got together with the Atlanta Feminist Women's Choir and a number of solo artists to celebrate Therese's music. The song I picked is called "Good Friends Are the Best."

MUSE - Cincinnati's Women's Choir & Atlanta Feminist Women's Choir - Good Friends Are the Best (1990)

I've pleased to bring you a special interview with Dr Tim Seelig. He was Artistic Director of the Turtle Creek Chorale of Dallas from 1987 through 2007, and during that time TCC became one of the most prominent gay choruses in the country. Since that time he's been a guest director for the gay choruses in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He's an acclaimed conductor, singer, author, teacher, he founded the Women's Chorus of Dallas, and I could go on and on. But the point of my wanting to speak with him was not to document a career bio; that is easy information to find. I wanted to get the benefit of his experience to talk about the heart of the gay choral movement.

Dr Tim Seelig Interview

I want to ask about the role of a gay chorus. In the early days, around 1979, 1980, it was "we're gay and we want to sing", and then the choruses had to react to the AIDS crisis. What do you think the role of a gay chorus is now?

Dr Tim Seelig:
The GALA choral movement began on several fronts rather simultaneously. It sort of came out of the gay band movement. Gay bands started marching in gay pride parades and all the singers were on the sidelines going "wait, wait, we can do that, we don't march, but we'd like to do something together." And of course it began with a lesbian chorus, Anna Crusis, and then the gay men's chorus movement actually began with San Francisco. And it was an effort to exhibit pride, come together in a group and do something fun and entertaining, and at the same time a sort of safety place for gay men and women to come together. Although in the early years there were gay men's choruses and lesbian choruses, that was before we got together and said "why don't we have mixed choruses" which came much later in the movement.

But in the early days I was still in the closet and married with children, so I was not a part of it, although I was in Houston, actually and aware only peripherally that there were some gay boys that were singing together, but being a good Baptist I didn't look very hard at that, for fear that I could just jump over at any moment. So in 1986 I came out, and the next year found out that there was an opening for this gay men's chorus in Dallas, called the Turtle Creek Chorale. By the time that happened I think those were really the years, in the mid-80s moving into the late 80s when the gay choral movement began, for obvious reasons, responding to the AIDS crisis. And that came as sort of a necessity, not only because the members of the choruses were obviously living with AIDS and then dying with AIDS, at that point, but also the choruses were turned to by the larger community for healing and for compassion. It was a group of people that was organized, and certainly we were singing for memorial services constantly, both of members and of people who were not members that just wanted some gay people to sing at a memorial service. So those years turned quite drastically inward to the gay community as opposed to the sort of outward exhibit of gay pride that had begun the movement. So toward the end of the 80s it was absolutely staggering to be a part of a gay men's chorus, and a lesbian chorus and be in the midst of that.

What do you think is the role of a gay chorus now?

Dr Seelig: You know, we changed, I don't know if it's for the better of worse, only history is going to tell that, but as we began to see the decline of deaths from HIV and AIDS we realized…I can tell you that even with the Turtle Creek Chorale, with 250 members, there were many times when it got so bad I thought we're not going to have a choir left, that's how afflicted we were with the HIV and AIDS crisis. But then the years wore on and all of a sudden people who had even been on disability went, "hmm, I'm going to live, it looks like, I guess I'm going to have to go back to work." And we realized that indeed we were going to have choruses and people were going to survive and so I think the gay choral movement at that point, just like the rest of the gay and lesbian world, sort of took note and said "we are going to make it, and so now what are we going to do? We have spent a lot of time on AIDS and HIV."

One of the things that we did here, cause we had started a women's chorus, was we turned some of our attention to breast cancer, and commissioned "Sing for the Cure" with the Komen Foundation. And actually changed our red ribbon to half red and half pink, and those are still being worn today, to show our solidarity with the women's community. And in addition to that we began to look at issues in the larger gay community outside just HIV and AIDS, and turned our attention musically to civil unions, at that time, and ultimately marriage, and to gay adoption. We really did turn our attention musically to social issues that were relevant to the time, and so I am so proud of the gay choral movement for having responded, having not just buried itself within its own sort of internal issues, but turned itself outward and said what can we do with our music to arise awareness for an incredibly wide range of issues.

Taking a break from the interview, I'm naturally playing music by the Turtle Creek Chorale. Of course I'll be playing a lot more by them in other segments of this show, but for this one I'm choosing what is very likely THE most recorded song by gay & lesbian choruses, and it's a song I just love. Fred Small wrote it and it's a gay anthem, called "Everything Possible."

Turtle Creek Chorale & Women's Chorus of Dallas - Everything Possible (1995)

From the 1995 album "Family," appropriately that was both the Turtle Creek Chorale and the Women's Chorus of Dallas.

Using as an example the Turtle Creek Chorale, I can understand why a chorus forming in Dallas in 1980 would think it's not a good time or place to have the word gay in their name. And probably at the same time other choruses had the same reasoning. What do you think of the pros and cons of having gay or lesbian in the name of a chorus, and has that changed over the years?

Dr Seelig: The issue of whether or not to have gay or lesbian in the name has been an ongoing conversation, I'll say, and that's a nice word…there have been lots of arguments about it needless to say since the beginning. I was not here when they founded the Turtle Creek Chorale so I had nothing to do with it. I adopted it and of course the Montrose Singers did the same thing as the Turtle Creek Chorale, and subsequently later added gay to their name. When you look at the overall gay and lesbian choral movement, of which I think there are probably 160-170 choruses involved, I believe the number is about two-thirds, half to two-thirds at least that are not gay or lesbian identified. And I can't speak for 100 choruses that do not have gay or lesbian in their name. I wouldn't dare to do that. I know that when they first established it, that it would be suicide in Dallas to call it the gay men's chorus. Once I got here and had had my own painful coming out, I said "girls, I'm not going back in the closet for you" and we started being very open about being a gay men's chorus. We just didn't change the name. I have no idea, I can't tell you why, by that point I think we had built a brand and everyone knew it was a gay men's chorus.

The interesting thing I think about the identified lesbian and gay choruses is the membership, what happens to the membership, and that is, the singing membership. I can tell you that had we been Dallas gay men's chorus we never would have had straight people sing in the chorus, and we did and we do have straight people that sing, even though it's identified as a gay men's chorus as a sort of subtext it leaves it open. The women's choruses even more pointedly have lots of straight women. For women the sexual orientation is less of an issue than it is for men. Apparently…I don't know, apparently straight men are a little paranoid about being in a room with gay men, but women not so much. So I think that to not have it in the name does open up the possibility for allies, to sing, to be a part. For the choruses that have gay and lesbian in the name their mission statements tend to be different, differently focused, and equally important needless to say, they would argue more important. In my earlier days I would argue but I'm too old to argue anymore. Did I answer that question?

JD: Yes, and I want to branch off of that, in the women's chorus community it's more grey as you already alluded to but some of them you wonder how they identify, like Anna Crusis, if you go to their website you will not find the word lesbian at all.

Dr Seelig: Correct, yeah, the gay men's choruses are most often about being gay and singing. Women's choruses or lesbian choruses, more often than not, are about being women and singing, not about being lesbian and singing, so there is a very fine but very important fine line. The gay men are all about being gay men. The women are about being women, not specifically lesbian.

JD: I think I want to close with asking about two quotes about you that appear on your website, and to get a comment. They are "Dr. Seelig takes eclecticism to new heights" and "Seelig slices a thick cut of ham."

Dr Seelig: (laughs) We did get the attention of Grammy Magazine for an article from whence that first quote comes about takes eclecticism to new heights. And I think that when they did what you are doing and looked at sort of the opus that the Turtle Creek Chorale had produced, they looked at the kinds of concerts we did, all the way from Joan of Arc, with a silent film, all the way to Forever Plaid within one fell swoop. They were kind of shocked at the breadth of repertoire that gay choruses do. I don't think they had really experienced that before, so that was the eclecticism in repertoire that they remarked upon, which is not unusual for any GLBT chorus, but it was the first time that the Grammy group had actually experienced it. Now the fact that I slice a thick cut of ham, I was asked recently in an interview, what is your greatest gift? And I said, hands down, I don't even have to think about it. It's a sense of humor. And I think that's probably true of a lot of gay people. Life hasn't been easy. Coming out was very difficult, out of the Baptist Church, being straight, with quotes, with two children. Life has not been easy for me at all, and if I had not had a sense of humor, I absolutely don't know how I would have made it through these years. And let me just say, directing a hundred lesbians every Monday night, and two hundred or more gay men every Tuesday night, if you don't have a sense of humor, there's just not enough drugs to make that work.

As a footnote, when I interviewed Dr Seelig, on October 7th, he shared with me off the record that he was among those interviewing for the position of Artistic Director for the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. I'm pleased to report that he was the one selected.

There's more to my interview, and you can hear that in the second segment of this show. I'm so glad I planned this as a multi-part feature, as there was just too much to possibly cover in one hour. And again, those other hours will include lots and lots of music, and I promise, much less talking than was needed for this segment. You can find all that at my website,

I have to take this moment to thank an internet friend of mine, Greg Allen. He's a member of the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus in Minneapolis, and we've been in touch a few years now. He is an amazing collector of CDs by gay & lesbian choruses, from all over the world, and has cataloged almost 500, and owns most of them. So he's been an incredible source of information that's helped give me a framework to this multi-hour special, not to mention sending me quite a few songs that I requested.

Oh, for some trivia I got from Greg's data, regarding the songs most recorded by GLBT choruses, the winner is indeed "Everything Possible," appearing on at least 30 different recordings. I'm only considering non-Christmas songs here, as I really don't care that there were over 50 versions of "Ave Maria." And, coming in at number two, with a bullet, should be no surprise. It's "Over the Rainbow." And, of the roughly 500 recordings, about 16% were by women's choruses, 19% by mixed choruses, and the rest by men's choruses. On these nine hours you'll hear about 120 songs by about 60 different groups.

How to sum up this hour? I'm going to try by using a few quotes I found during my research. For example, it's been said that every time a gay or lesbian chorus sings it's a political act, in that it is visibility for our community. Another quote is "What is it about singing that as we entertain ourselves with our music it creates in us a place of safety, where we can heal ourselves and strengthen our resolve." One chorus member said that the unifying factor is not the sexual orientation, as much as it is the struggle to deal with a world that doesn't accept them. And, what gay & lesbian choruses do that is unique, is to sing from the heart, and they sing their experience. So, I've talked about the music, the message, education, politics, strength, healing, community, joy. Or, I could have just played for you my closing song. This is JD Doyle for Queer Music Heritage, closing with the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, from their 1998 album "Look to the Rainbow." This sums it up very well. Here is "We Are Proud."

New York City Gay Men's Chorus - We Are Proud (1998)

Detroit Together Men's Chorus - We Sing Together (1997)

"We Sing Together" by the Detroit Together Men's Chorus, from their 1997 recording "Live In Concert." This is JD Doyle and welcome to Part 2 of my tribute to gay & lesbian choral music. That song was of course lyrically a great way to start this segment. It was written by Eric Lane Barnes and he is one of my favorite writers for gay choruses. He's Assistant Artistic Director for the Seattle Mens Chorus, and while they benefit greatly from his talent, his work goes out into the world often in the form of commissions.
And commissions will be the special focus of this segment. Sometimes individual choruses might commission a work, and the GALA organization as a whole also facilitates that process, and it's a vital one. This is how the music of the genre grows, and becomes richer, as the new original music reflects our lives and journeys, and can be shared by other choruses. So, all of the music in this segment was derived through this process. Also in this hour we'll continue the interview with Dr Tim Seelig, as what he shared with me was just too good not to share more of it with you.

I could do a number of hours on commissioned works, and it's very tough to choose which to cover so this will be one of two segments on the subject. I'm starting with an early one, from 1992, done for the Turtle Creek Chorale of Dallas, as a reaction to the AIDS crisis and the losses it has left. Written by Kristopher Anthony, and based on poetry by Peter McWilliams, it was called "When We No Longer Touch," and a very moving song from it is "I Shall Miss Loving You."

Turtle Creek Chorale - I Shall Miss Loving You (1992)

Again, "When We No Longer Touch" was by Kristopher Anthony, who died of AIDS just a few days before the work was presented at the GALA Festival in June of 1992. And, as that was by the Turtle Creek Chorale, this is a good time to continue my interview with Dr Seelig.

Dr Tim Seelig Interview, Continued

Turtle Creek Chorale has by far been the most prolific chorus, with regards to releasing recordings. And I know it's not a competition, but I think there's been almost 40, which is twice as much as the chorus in second place, San Francisco. To what to you attribute this accomplishment?

Dr Seelig: Early on, interestingly enough when I first got here, I said to the board in the second year I was here…the chorus was singing pretty well, and I said we should make a cassette, and the board said, we have no money, and they said, what would that cost, and I said, it would cost two thousand dollars, and so one of my members stepped forward and said, I'll pay the two thousand dollars, and we recorded a Christmas cassette, and we sold all thousand copies, and made ten thousand dollars. Well of course the board wanted that money and the member who donated that two thousand said, oh no you don't, that ten thousand is going to go to make a CD. And everybody was like, oh, a CD, those are those little shiny silver things. And so I believe it was 1991 when we made "From the Heart," which was one of the first CDs in the GALA movement, and you know, it's funny, it still sells, "From the Heart." After that, because we had set a pattern of investing the profits from the first cassette into a CD, the board was oh look, we made some money from "From the Heart," what do you want to do next? So I didn't have to go to them every single time and say, may I have some money to make a recording, so that was I think the first really boon. And then early on I went to an international choral festival, non-gay, in Vancouver and listened to some of the groups that were performing and singing and I thought, you know, we're as good as some of these groups and we really need to record the male choral music, and some of the mixed choral music, because by that point I had also conducted and founded the Women's Chorus of Dallas, so it became just a part of what we did. Then we had Reference Recordings, the label, audiophile label, showed up and said, we want to record you. Well that was heaven, because then they paid the bills. How can you say no to that? So it was a conscious effort to document what was going on.

JD: I need to preface this question with saying that for almost eleven years I've produced a show called Queer Music Heritage, so I have a certain focus. And I have about 130 gay & lesbian chorus CDs in my collection, and looking through them while researching this project I was struck by proportionally how little material on them was lyrically gay. Why do you think that is, and is that a question that matters?

Dr Seelig: I don't think it's a question that matters particularly that the repertoire is not specifically gay. More and more as the movement has progressed choruses have commissioned work with specifically gay themes, but let me say that when I started in 1987 there was very little specifically gay repertoire. That has certainly grown and I think you've seen in your own recordings, that we have grown into, and thanks to GALA choruses the movement, commissioned some amazing works that have specifically gay themes. For example, I'll use Twin Cities and their recent commission on crystal meth. That is not a gay theme, but the fact that the gay choral movement has birthed this, or "Sing for the Cure" for breast cancer, or…if all we did, and this is my feeling, and this goes back to what I was saying about the mission statements of various groups…if our mission statement is to produce gay music for gay people feeling good about being gay when they get together to be gay, the movement would have died. And the mission is so much broader than that, and the mission is to change hearts and minds. That's the mission of GALA choruses. Well, if all you're going to do is sing to yourselves, about yourselves, how are you going to change anyone else's mind? It's really important to reach out, and not just sing about ourselves.

JD: Can you compare the state of the Turtle Creek Chorale when you came on board in 1987 to when you left them, 20 years later?

Dr Seelig: I don't know if everybody does this but I think they do. I don't think it's just Texas, that would give that kind of judgment through numbers, which is really a tacky thing to do. I will say that in 1987 I believe there were around 40 or somewhat fewer active members at my first rehearsal. And it grew quite quickly, and it stayed at between 200 and 250 for the entire time, and it was an amazing, amazing thing financially…the budget was of course quite large, and full time staff had grown into really an arts institution. The Turtle Creek Chorale is considered one of the real musical arts institutions in Dallas at this point. I think emotionally the chorus, twenty years after I got there, which they'd already been going seven years when I took it over, was in a really good place, to become whatever the new Artistic Director wanted them to become. They were ready and happy and excited, motivated, and that's not really the way I found them.

It's always a good idea to insert some music within an interview and an excellent choice is a song from one of TCC's most acclaimed and far reaching commissioned works. In collaboration with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the concert was called "Sing For The Cure: A Proclamation of Hope," and from it is "One Voice," by both the Turtle Creek Chorale and Women's Chorus of Dallas.

Turtle Creek Chorale - One Voice (1990)

Without naming any gay & lesbian choruses you've personally been involved with, what do you think are the best choruses in the U.S.?

Dr Seelig: (laughs) During my two years as Artistic Director of GALA Choruses…when I stepped down from the Turtle Creek Chorale I was hired by GALA Choruses to establish a new position that they had never had of Artistic Director in Residence for all GALA Choruses, and I have never in my many years had such an eye-opening experience as those two years. I had become very, of course, sort of tunnel-visioned herein Dallas on the work of the Turtle Creek Chorale and the Women's Chorus of Dallas. So I was pretty much Dallas-centric, and we get that way in our own cities. All of a sudden I was free of both of my choruses here in Dallas, and travelling, and in the time-frame of those two years visited about 40 different GALA choruses, all over North America, in the UK, and I will just say my eyes were completely opened. To choose what some of the best choruses would take your entire hour…because I found that what we might at first glance judge as a measuring tool for the best choruses was completely wrong.
There are choruses of 15 people doing amazing work in small, small towns that…you know, Boise, Idaho, you go, oh my goodness, bless their heart, or Salt Lake City, or Jackson, Mississippi, you go wow, they are doing phenomenal work. The rest of us had it easier, even if it was in Dallas, because we fled to urban centers where we could find much more support. I think each of the choruses is doing an amazing job of finding their niche in their marketplace, and being the voice, the GLBT voice for that community. So I'm totally going to skirt that question, because they're all really working so hard, and doing amazing work.

JD: I wondered if you would do that.

Dr Seelig: Oh my gosh, are you kidding? You know, there are stand-outs that the gay choral movement follows and watches. Everybody watches Dennis Coleman in Seattle to see what in the world he's going to do next. His creative genius…

JD: Yeah, I get their newsletter, I'm constantly amazed.

Dr Seelig: It's just amazing, so I think that everybody has been and will be forever chasing Emerald City Arts, the Seattle Men's Chorus, the Seattle Women's Chorus, and all of the tributaries that river has spawned, from Captain Smartypants, I mean, you name it, they're the cutting edge of programming, and of production, and then at this last GALA (Festival) they stepped forward and wowed the audience, not just with the production, but with stunning musicality and singing. So I don't think anyone would dispute the fact that as far as an organization they have been the leader of the movement. San Francisco is awesome, I mean, they are the grandfather of the gay male choral movement, and have stayed right at the edge politically, partially because of where they are. Musically there are choruses all over the GALA network that are doing incredible work.

JD: Who do you think are the best composers for gay choruses?

Dr Seelig: We have had through the years an amazing array of composers who have written for gay choruses, from David Conte, Conrad Sousa, Ned Rorem…so there has been really an array of absolute A-team composers, who have also composed for the gay choral movement. We have raised up our own set. I would assume from looking at your recordings the most prolific is Robert Seeley, Bob Seeley, who began with the San Francisco gay men's chorus, and "Naked Man" and on and on, and has done commissions, he did one called "Only Human" for the Women's Chorus of Dallas, for women's voices, and continues to write so beautifully. He wrote many of his early pieces for Stan Hill in San Francisco, and then continued to do that with "Metamorphosis" and some of the other ones through Twin Cities. He wrote "Brave Souls and Dreamers" for the Portland Gay Men's Chorus, about war, it's just stunning, and he wrote one for the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC about families, that is breathtaking. So I would have to give it to Bob Seeley for being the most prolifically gay-themed, and gay composers in the movement. There are so many others, many, many arrangers, the funniest of whom is Eric Lane Barnes in Seattle. Whatever he writes is just side-splitting. He is so funny, but he also writes some beautiful, beautiful serious music that people don't automatically know or think about.

JD: And David Maddux.

Dr Seelig: David Maddux may be the most prolific arranger for gay and lesbian choruses, both men, women and mixed. David is not a composer…I think he would be the first to say, and certainly he's composed for a few choruses, but his gift is, wow, putting together shows and arranging them, yeah, as far as arrangers more gay choruses, gay and lesbian choruses, have sung his arrangements in shows than any other.

At the beginning of Dr Seelig's last answer he mentioned "Naked Man" written by Robert Seeley and Phillip Littell, as done by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, and that's where I am going next. The recording was released in 1996 and from it is "Marry Us."

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - Marry Us (1996)
Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles - We Sing (1993)
New Jersey Gay Men's Chorus - Flying Dreams (1997)

After "Marry Us" by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, you heard "We Sing" by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. That's from their 1993 recording "Hidden Legacies," written by Roger Bourland and John Hall. And closing that set was "Flying Dreams" from "Prayers for Bobby," commissioned for the New Jersey Gay Men's Chorus, in 1997, with music by J.A. Kawarsky and libretto by Kendel J. Killpack.

Okay, you've heard a bit about the organization GALA Choruses by now, and I wanted some additional information, so I went to the source. Robin Godfrey is General Manager of GALA, and was kind enough to do a short interview.

Robin Godfrey Interview

What is the role of GALA and since it was founded in 1982, how has that changed?

Robin Godfrey: GALA was originally founded to help facilitate the Festival, the notion that the choruses should come together periodically for a combined Festival, and GALA was founded to help provide an umbrella organization under which to coordinate planning for that event. Over the years the rold of GALA has broadened a bit, but it is still very much focused on providing support and coordination for the member choruses.

JD: The GALA website describes a lot of things it does for member choruses, such as the Festivals, providing a resource and technical and organizational guidance, grants for new commissioned works, and makes me wonder how GALA itself is funded?

RG: Our revenue picture is a mix of membership dues, we try run our events at not necessarily at a profit but at least at a cost which recovers our internal costs, salary and overhead costs of putting the events together, and then we are very fortunate to have some generous individual donors.

JD: For the member dues, does that vary by the size of the chorus?

RG: Yes, the underlying formula for dues is a flat amount plus a factor which is based on the number of singers.

JD: I guess the singers, a lot of them pay dues to their own choruses.

RG: They certainly do, yes, almost all of the choruses have a membership dues component.

JD: What is GALA's biggest challenge?

RG: We are a reflection of our member choruses, so I think GALA's biggest challenge continues to be supporting its member choruses in their work to look for justice.

JD: It seems from what I've observed a lot of the individual choruses have broadened their own goals to not just gay and lesbian issues, but their own communities.

RG: I think that's right. I think we're as an organization we're all passionately committed to this notion that music has a unique capability to touch people, and that the power of music can be used in support of social justice components and give us an ability to reach folks who might not otherwise be ready to hear that kind of a message, and as applicable to any other social justice issue as it is to GLBT rights.

JD: Roughly how many choruses belong to GALA?

RG: About 170 spread across the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South America.

JD: And roughly how many individual members would that be?

RG: Around 8000 individual singers.

JD: I'm pleased to see a number of youth choruses cropping up all over the country. It's very inspiring. Are these mostly under the umbrellas of existing adult gay & lesbian choruses? Are there special needs for these choruses, and is there much networking between them?

RG: The youth choruses are the largest growing segment of our chorus population. You don't have to go back very far in time to find there being only one youth chorus to our festival in 2008 where we had five youth choruses performing. And I think now we're probably getting close to there being ten youth choruses, so they are growing as a segment of our population. Some are organized as part of the adult GLBT choruses, but probably at least half of them not, they are independent choral organizations. They are a little different in that they're not, many of them, are not straight choral groups, which I think reflects the fact that they are dealing with a segment of the population that has an interest in music that is not purely choral. So many of the youth choruses do some other kinds of things, whether it's dance or slam poetry or other kinds of performance things apart from simply choral music.

JD: A question about commissioned work…say, the New York chorus commissions a work, does it have first right of performance, or how does that work? And I know it gets to the other choruses…

RG: It depends on the negotiation between the chorus and the composer exactly who has rights to what, but we try to encourage multiple performances of a commissioned piece. There are far too many pieces of work that get commissioned sung by one chorus and then are never seen again. We're building an on-line music resource where the commissioned works by our member choruses are in a data base, which is searchable by a number of attributes, so other artistic directors can go in and find works that have been commissioned that might be applicable to a particular concert theme that they're building.

JD: Can they search on, for example, pieces with gay topics?

RG: Yes, they can search based on a particular word in the lyrics, they can search by composer, they could search by what type of group it's written for. There are any number of attributes they can search on.

JD: I've got probably 140-150 gay & lesbian chorus CDs and once in a while I run into this song and I say, why isn't anyone else singing this?

RG: Yeah, amongst the larger choruses it happens pretty seamlessly. They're fairly closely in touch with each other. And when San Francisco commissions a piece of work it tends to get picked up by New York and Washington and Seattle and Dallas, that communication tends to happen very effectively. Not so much between the smaller choruses where those connections are not as strong and the knowledge and awareness of that music is not as seamless as it is with the larger groups.

JD: The GALA site lists a number of choruses that do not belong, almost 200, what would be the most common reason for a gay or lesbian chorus to not belong to GALA?

RG: To some extent the dues structure is prohibitive to choruses, you have to have the experience of either attending conferences, of attending managers and directors retreats to get a sense of what is it about this organization that makes it worthwhile to belong. And sometimes depending upon who the Artistic Director of the group is, if they've not had that experience, then there's not going to be that motivation to get the money into the budget to be a member of the association and to attend conferences and retreats and those sorts of things.

JD: I was talking to Tim Seelig last week. We talked briefly about the differences between the men's and the women's choruses, and he kind of summed it up that the men are interested because it's a gay chorus, and the women are interested because it's a women's chorus.

RG: There's certainly truth to that. The women's choruses tend to have a broader focus and I think all generalizations are just that…they are generalizations and they are not necessarily true of every organization, but on balance, the women's organizations tend to have a broader focus…their focus is not GLBT but it tends to be more broadly social justice. And the composition of the women's choruses tends to be much more mixes, gay and straight.

JD: I think a factor of that just from my personal observation is that straight women do not seem bothered to be in a chorus with lesbians, but straight men are insecure about being in a chorus with gay men.

RG: Yeah, I think in general that's true, although we are seeing in a number of the men's choruses an increase in the participation of straight allies, which I think speaks very well to our evolution as a species, that we are able to overcome some of those fears now and see straight allies be able to stand up and say "I'm willing to sing in a gay chorus."

JD: Yeah, that's terrific, societal progress. Any question I should have asked you?

RG: I think we probably have the clearest mission, if you look across a group of organizations, if you read the mission statement of our 170 member choruses, in almost every one of them you will see the words "using the power of music to create change" and I think there is real power in that unanimity of focus. And we'll continue working to bring that focus on music to create change.

And you can find out more information at This JD Doyle and I'm ready to close out this segment of Queer Music Heritage, but there's lots more. I thank Dr Tim Seelig and Robin Godfrey for the interviews and, again, all of the music heard during this segment was commissioned by gay or lesbian choruses. I've got time for a couple more and they are both from a CD from 2000 called "Millenium Mosaic: Voices of Queer Youth." It was commissioned by the Portland Gay Men's Chorus, and they easily found a composer to write the music, their own former conductor David York, but for the songs they solicited young people in the community to contribute ideas. So the whole CD has this theme, covering a variety of areas. The two songs I picked are "Where Everyone Is Free" and "Truth Under My Wings."

Portland Gay Men's Chorus - Where Everyone Is Free (2000)
Portland Gay Men's Chorus - Truth Under My Wings (2000)

Seattle Lesbian & Gay Chorus - Coming Out With Pride (1993)

Welcome to Part 3 of my salute to the Gay & Lesbian Choral Movement. This is JD Doyle with Queer Music Heritage, and in this segment I continue a look at the relationship of commissioned works to the movement. I think this is an exciting role, as it is the opportunity for the actual music of GLBT choruses to grow, and to reflect our lives, and the world around us.

I started off with the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Chorus and the song "Coming Out With Pride." That's from a 1993 recording called "Chronicle of the Way-Showers" which was composed by David Maddux. He's probably the most prolific arranger of gay choral music and you'll see his name in the liner notes of countless CDs. For that project he got input from the members themselves, who explained what it meant to be gay, from a lot of angles. Also, I'll note that this was one of the first big commissioned works for a mixed chorus.

I almost can't wait to get to this next recording, as it's one of my favorites. Now, my listeners know I like my music very queer, and this whole album covers all those bases. It's from 1998 and was by the Connecticut Gay Men's Chorus, and as it turns out has been their only release, but what a release. It's a total concept piece called "Out!" Don't you love it already? The ideas came from the members of the chorus and Winston Clark and Peter Winkler turned those into a musical, one that starts at the beginning of figuring out you are gay and then goes on the journey. The story flows through it so I know I'm doing it an injustice at just picking the intro song, two in between, called "The Kiss" and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and the reprise. Here's the Connecticut Gay Men's Chorus and "Out!"

Connecticut Gay Men's Chorus - Out / The Kiss / Don't Ask Don't Tell / Out (1998)

Up next, here's one from Los Angeles. The Tolerance Project was a collection of texts written by L.A. area high school students, and the chorus Vox Femina had several of them set to music in 2002, for their album called "Simply…Vox Femina." One of those was "I Love a Rainbow."

Vox Femina - I Love a Rainbow (2002)
Women's Chorus of Dallas - I Make My Way In The World (1999)

I mentioned in the last segment the commissioned works the prolific composer Robert Seeley, and played a selection from "Naked Man." He's been involved with many other projects, with a variety of choruses, including that last piece, by the Women's Chorus of Dallas. The song "I Make My Way In The World" was from their 1999 recording "Only Human." I've got three more Robert Seeley compositions. From "Naked Man" is "Never Ever," from "Exile" is "The Prodigal," and the last song of this set is the much lighter "Neighbors and Friends." That's from "This House Shall Stand - Songs of My Family." These are done respectively by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, and the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC.

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - Never Ever (1997)
Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus - The Prodigal (2006)
Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC - Neighbors and Friends (2007)

I played the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus in that set, and they have done a number of noteworthy commissioned works. One is only out on DVD but I think it deserves mention. It's called "Through a Glass, Darkly," and deals with Crystal Meth addiction. Now, I got a copy of the DVD and I thought, well, I've never had any association with drugs, nor had my friends, what do I care about this? Well, I found it riveting. It's like part choral concert, part rock opera, with terrific and moving performances. I grabbed a couple minutes from one of the climactic numbers, where one of the main characters, after being on a meth binge for days, is coming back to his lover, though still in denial of his condition. The song is "What's the Problem?"

Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus - What's the Problem? (2008)

That one clip cannot possibly do justice to the power of that concert. This next piece was written for the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles by its resident composer Scott Henderson, with lyrics by their Assistant Director Bob Daggett. And it's become one of the anthems of the gay choral movement, showing up so far on ten different recordings, by choruses all over the country. I'm playing the L.A. version, which was the title track of their 1991 album "Diversity."

Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles - Diversity (1991)

Next is something special, and I'm pleased to feature a work that's never been released, and I thank its composer Tom Wilson Weinberg for sharing it with me. I first met Tom in 1979 and his was the first openly gay music I had heard after coming out the previous year, so I've kept an affection for his work through the years. The project was the story of New York City songwriters Gean Harwood and Bruhs Mero, who met in 1929 and lived together until 1992, when Bruhs developed Alzheimer's disease and Gean could no longer take care of him. The show, called "Sixty Years with Bruhs and Gean" tells a little of their story. It was commissioned by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, who you'll hear perform the piece, directed by Gary Miller, and recorded in June of 1995, at Carnegie Hall.

New York City Gay Men's Chorus - Sixty Years With Bruhs & Gean (1995)

Bruhs Mero died in 1995, and Gean Harwood, who in 1997 wrote a book about them called "The Oldest Gay Couple in America," died in 2006, at age 97.

This is JD Doyle with Queer Music Heritage and I've run out of time for this segment, but there are many more, and more commissioned works will appear in other segments. I think an appropriate closing song is one by the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC, and the song celebrates the impact of gay & lesbian choruses. It was composed by Alan Shorter, also well-known for adapting for the concert stage "Oliver Button Was a Sissy." From 2005 here is the title track from the album "Changing Hearts."

Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC - Changing Hearts (2005)

Gay Men's Chorus of Houston - I Can Fly (2009)

That was the Gay Men's Chorus of Houston and the song "I Can Fly," and this is JD Doyle for Queer Music Heritage. This month I'm saluting gay & lesbian choruses and it's a multi-part show. On this hour the focus is the history of that movement in Houston, and I've got two special interviews to help do that. The first is with Andy Mills, who founded the Montrose Singers, in 1979, and was with the chorus until 1984. And bringing things up to date I'll talk with the current Director Dr. Linus Lerner. Along the way of course there'll be lots of music, and some other goodies. The music I started off with was a hopeful piece called "I Can Fly," and it's by one of the most noteworthy composers for gay choruses, Robert Seeley, taken from his work "Metamorphosis." The Gay Men's Chorus did it on their 2009 album "Topsy Turvy," and that's one of the few double-disc releases I can think of by any chorus, so they've come a long way.

Before I start telling you about the history I want to play a track from their first album, and it happens to have been written by two of my gay icons, Romanovsky & Phillips. It appeared on the chorus' first release "To Friends and To Life," recorded in 1994 in honor of its 15th anniversary. The song is called "Love Is All It Takes."

Gay Men's Chorus of Houston - Love Is All It Takes (1995)

Before I get any further I want to give a quick timeline for the chorus. It was founded in November of 1979 as the Montrose Singers, and in 1992 the name was changed to the Gay Men's Chorus of Houston. In 2005 that expanded into Bayou City Performing Arts, adding the Bayou City Women's Chorus, and along the way several other ensembles, including the Bayou City Chorale, Bayou Rhythms and VocalEase. So the Gay Men's Chorus is now in its 32nd season, but back to the beginning.

Andy MIlls Interview

In Houston Andy Mills is a pretty colorful character. In addition to managing for many years a gay bar called Mary's Naturally, which itself was a colorful Houston institution, he took over the gay community's marching band and founded its chorus, and in my interview with him I jump right into that history.

The Montrose Marching Band was founded in early '79, and the reason for that band was to march in the March on Washington, later that year in October. After the March the band was pretty much ready to fold, and you stepped in and took over the band, changed the name to Montrose Symphonic Band, and at the same time, started the Montrose Singers.

Andy Mills: Yes, within a month of each other, about, and I had been a music major in college, majoring in instruments and minoring in voice, but I was the first director to go to the first Montrose Singers meeting, so I got the job.

JD: So it was like who wants to do it step forward, and everybody stepped back?

AM: Yup, everybody else stepped back. And I never had a board of directors, I never had officers, and ruled with an iron fist. You were in my group, and that's the way it was, and if you didn't like that you could do as you pleased.

JD: How long were you with the Montrose Singers?

AM: Until '84, when my lover got sick.

JD: And roughly through those years, we're talking '79 to '84, how many members were usually in the chorus?

AM: Between 40 and 60, usually around 60.

JD: How were the Montrose Singers received by both the gay community and Houston in general?

AM: Oh, very, very well. We would do two-night performances at the Tower Theatre, which was to my being one of the best facilities in the city. It seated 900 people. It was right in the middle of the neighborhood. It was so convenient for everybody, cause everybody lived in the Montrose back then, and we'd do two performances, Saturday and Sunday. Our first performance…Ella Fitzgerald had performed there on a Friday night. I had performed with her in 1956 on the Ed Sullivan Show, and I sent a note backstage when she was here, saying that I had done that, I knew she wouldn't remember, and could I come back and visit with her. And I got a note back saying yes, and so I went back and we talked for a good half hour, and had a lovely time…a charming, charming woman.

JD: You say you performed with her, were you in the orchestra?

AM: No, I was with the men's chorus at Ohio State University. And there were 40 men in the glee club, and we had a woman pianist. And we toured the East Coast as 40 men and a girl. Unbeknownst to most of them, some of us weren't all boy.

JD: How soon after the singers started did you start performing at the Tower Theatre?

AM: That was our first concert, 1980, and I talked to her, and I had taken an ad out for the Montrose Singers on her program, and I told her about it, and yadda yadda. So she says, do you want to use my piano. And I said sure, and so she left her extended keyboard nine-foot concert Bosendorfer piano, a $90,000 piano for me to use. She said, when you're done with it, call this number, and they'll come pick it up. Well, I wanted to take it home.

JD: I've done a lot of studying on the internet to try to see what choruses were first. San Francisco was indeed first. It kind of looked like Los Angeles, New York City and Seattle followed, and Houston might have been fifth. Does that sound likely?

AM: Well, we were all very close together, and we were the five chorus directors that got together in Chicago, must have been '81, and formed GALA, the Gay & Lesbian Choruses.

JD: So there were five directors at that meeting? So that clinches it.

AM: Yes, and I don't know which order we all were anymore, I have slept since then. And the popularity grew rapidly. The last chorus conference I was at was in 2000 in San Jose, there's one every four years, in a different city around the world. There were 6000 chorus members from around the world there, and we sang together in the convention center. And a piece of music that the Dallas Turtle Creek Chorale, which I personally think is the best men's chorus in the world, commissioned a piece of work called "Sing for the Cure," and we sight-read that with an orchestra, with him (Dr Seelig) conducting. It was premiered in Dallas, with Maya Angelou as a narrator. To hear 6000 voices together at one time is something you can't believe until you are there in it.

JD: I wanted to get your impression on what it means for a member of a chorus to be in a gay chorus.

AM: Well, number one, the friendships…I can't tell you the number of pairs that have met in a chorus. Or if a chorus travels, or a band travels, to another city, you're going to lose a member two, and you're going to gain a member or two, because of love attractions.

JD: Like exchange students.

AM: Yeah, exactly, but sometimes they're permanent.

JD: You must be very proud to see that a chorus you founded as grown into a major performing arts organization.

AM: Oh, I am, they're my children. There's only I think two in the chorus now that were in when I was the director. I'm very pleased that in the programs they always acknowledge me as the founder of the Montrose Singers, now the Gay Men's Chorus, and that makes me feel good.

JD: During your years with the Montrose Singers, is there any one thing that made you the most proud?

AM: Ah, there were so many…any one…the first time the choruses that were in existence went to the Gay Games in San Francisco, the first Gay Games. There were 900 of us and we sang at that. It was the first attempt at combining the Gay Games with the gay music goings-on, and I'll never forget it. It was great fun.

JD: Probably a comment might be that you might consider that the real start of the gay choral movement.

AM: Very probably, because it showed that there was strength in numbers, number one.

Taking a break from the interview I am very pleased to insert some very rare musical history. The Montrose Singers did not release any recordings, and remember in those days those releases would have been on vinyl and not too many choruses could afford to that. But thanks to a tape Andy shared with me, I am able to give you a song from their first Christmas concert. This was at the Tower Theatre, in the heart of Montrose, and the year was 1980. Now, remember, be a little kind, as this is a 30-year-old tape. You'll hear him introduce the song.

Montrose Singers - Pachelbel's Canon in D Major (All Peace All Joy) (1980)

I would not have normally chosen a seven-minute song, but I really liked that one, and there was about five times more applause, but I trimmed it down. Again, that recording was not released and was just privately done for their archives, but I am delighted to have it and that history to share with you, and you can hear that whole concert on my site.

Back to the interview with Andy Mills. I need to interject here for non-Houstonians that the bar called Marys Naturally was an institution for 39 years, until it's closing in November of 2009. It was in the heart of Montrose, and was always a prime gathering place during the Pride Parades, and it would be a huge understatement to say that it was the home of so, so many stories.

JD: Another big part of your early gay history is working at Mary's.

AM: Yes, the best job I ever had, and Jim Farmer, who owned Mary's had been a friend of mine, for years. I lived in New York and he would come to New York to visit. And I was in there (Mary's) one day and he said, could you bartend for a couple of days because I'm short-handed. I said, sure. And so I went to work and one night to the office at two o'clock in the morning, and there's the manager on a couch with a trick and there's money all over the office. And so I called Jim at home and I said "come over here now." He said, "I'm asleep." I said, "I don't care, come over here now. He came over, and I said "I want you to get rid of him and him, and I am your new manager." And I collected like $40,000, cause it was scattered throughout the office, and I cleaned everything up. This was before the band or the chorus, this was like, '76. And then in '79 when I went to, unbeknownst to me, take over the chorus, and we had no piano, so he had a Steinway grand piano and I said "I need your piano." So we moved it to that place where we were rehearsing, and as long as he got the money he needed to do what he wanted to do, I could do whatever I wanted with the rest of it, as far as the community was concerned. I could donate to, I could buy, go to auctions, whatever, it didn't matter to him. And so I started the chorus and I went to the music store and wrote a Mary's check for it, I signed all their checks.

JD: So, one of the oldest gay bars in Texas funded the band and the chorus.

AM: Oh, yeah, oh yeah, probably $80,000 for the band, when I started buying timpani and chimes and music stands and concert uniforms, music…music for the chorus you buy one piece of music for sixty cents, and you've got enough for the whole chorus. For the band one arrangement of one piece of music is at least ninety dollars. Every song was another ninety dollars or more, so to do an hour and a half worth of music, you had seven, eight hundred dollars in it. So between that and instruments, it was much more expensive. That's why there's only like twenty gay bands in the United States, compared to over a hundred choruses.

JD: Any amusing stories about the Montrose Singers?

AM: (laughs) Every rehearsal was an amusing story. The most amusing story about a performance was at Cullen Theatre at the University of Houston. And I was funny about comic stuff, I was interested in doing concerts, like professional show stuff, not camp yadda yadda. I just didn't do it, and it wasn't done back in the early 80s like it's done now. Every chorus has much camp and carry-on, rainbow hats and umbrellas and fans, and dancing. We didn't have any of that before. And we were singing and one of the chorus members came out with this probably three-foot hamper, as big around as a barrel. And we are singing "A Slow Drag" from "Treemonisha," which is a Scott Joplin opera, and it had been performed less than a year before at Miller Outdoor Theatre by the Houston Grand Opera, so it was fresh in people's minds. And as we're singing they go to the hamper one at a time and pull out a dress and a wig. There's nothing I can do to stop it, it's in the go. And so we continued to sing, and the audience thought it was hysterical, and thank God, and I was dumbstruck. I don't like surprises when I've got my back to an audience. And after that number we went into a medley of tunes from "South Pacific." Well, you should have heard the audience when "Some Enchanted Evening" and "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair." All these songs came up with all of these men in drag. It was hysterical.

JD: Did you give them hell for doing that?

AM: It was such a success, no, there was no point.

And, how cool is this. I have a recording of one of the songs from that concert that Andy was just describing, from a tape made just for chorus use, from the Gay Pride Week concert in 1982. Remember, the chorus had just changed into drag before the helpless Andy, and here's him introducing the next set, starting with "Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair."

Montrose Singers - Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair (1982)

Again, Andy Mills was with the chorus until 1984. Before it changed its name in 1992 it was involved in some politics and homophobia. In September of 1991 it rented some space for a concert at the Catholic school St Thomas University, but then the university cancelled the concert, as it said it had gotten complaints from alumni and students who did not want visible homosexuals on campus. The political action group Queer Nation organized a "sing-in" protest at the campus, and the chorus found other space for its concert, at Rice University. You can find a clip of the news coverage of that protest on YouTube.

As far as the recordings of the Bayou City Arts choruses go, they really got into full steam when James Knapp was director, from 2001 to 2009, with six releases coming out. A mostly holiday CD, "Grateful" was first in 2003, and from it, from the musical "The Wiz" is "Home."

Gay Men's Chorus of Houston - Home (2003)

That was from their 2003 release, to be followed by "Red Hot & Cole," as in Cole Porter, the next year. From that recording is "Every Time I Say Goodbye."

Gay Men's Chorus of Houston - Every Time I Say Goodbye (2004)
Gay Men's Chorus of Houston - Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me (2005)

Of course that was Elton John's song "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," which the Gay Men's Chorus included on their 2005 release "Mosaic."

As part of my research for this show, on October 4th I attended a rehearsal of the Gay Men's Chorus, and seeing Dr Linus Lerner in action was very impressive. He has amazing enthusiasm and I can see how he spreads that to the chorus members. This is his second season as Artistic Director, and this was a Monday, so this was the men's chorus. The Bayou City Women's Chorus members get their turns on Tuesdays. That night I had my laptop with me for my interview and I turned its recorder on for part of the rehearsal.

Gay Men's Chorus Rehearsal Clip (2010)

I'm sure they would want me to remind that this was an early rehearsal for this year's holiday concert. While I was there that evening I talked with several members and decided I wanted to get some comments from a couple of them, sort of voices from the trenches. I spoke first with Richard Hudkins.

Richard Hudkins Comments (2010)

JD: Why did you join the chorus?

RH: Because the rest of my time during the week was all spent kind of in the heterosexual world. It was my one outlet to feel like I was participating within my own community.

JD: How long have you been a member?

RH: I actually joined the Montrose Singers 30 years ago, and sang for about two years, and then I left that group and went with another choral group, and then rejoined the Gay Men's Chorus, which the Montrose Singers eventually became, about nine years ago.

JD: And what do you see as the goals of a gay or lesbian chorus?

RH: The mission statement for the Houston Gay Men's Chorus is to provide excellence in music and provide a nurturing environment for its members. And I think that holds true pretty much across the board.

JD: Do you think the emphasis on any of these goals have changed over the years?

RH: I think the changes that have happened are the results of what's happened in our culture…not our culture, the American culture in the last several years, where music programs have been cut out of high schools and choral music is now something that young people think of as outdated, so I think the GALA choruses are struggling to meet the challenge of how do you re-excite the community about attending chorus performances. The show on television, Glee, shows a lot of bigotry within the school system against a chorus in the school, just cause it's not the in-thing to do. And I think that same impact has occurred just for choruses in general.

JD: What's your take on whether a chorus should have the word gay in its name?

RH: I think it's been very valuable in the community to put a good face on the gay community, particularly to the straight community. I'm not sure it's as relevant today as it was in the past. Young people today it seems in high school, come out earlier and don't feel as much need for the support system that the gay choruses provided its gay members in the past.

JD: Do you think choruses without gay in the name get more funding from foundations?

RH: Oh, absolutely, they have in the past. In Houston we struggled with that, because non-profits in general have struggled financially, and we were not able to tap into a lot of corporate money that the choruses in other cities, such as Turtle Creek and the Seattle Men's Chorus, were able to pull in. However, just in this past year the fact that Houston has elected its first lesbian mayor seems to be making a difference. I think there's two things going on right now with Houston, that change and the energy that Linus (Lerner) is bringing to the Houston chorus.

JD: Very good, anything that I should ask you that I haven't asked you that you'd like to comment on?

RH: Well, there were a lot of, not a lot, there were a number of gay composers who wrote pieces of music, particularly during the height of AIDS epidemic, when so many of the gays in the community were dying, before meds were available. And they would write pieces of music that would generally take up half of a concert. It was all music of the sorry and the pain, of dealing with AIDS, of being discriminated against. Also what I heard from members of the audience, they were tired of attending concerts that they walked out feeling emotionally drained, and they wanted to be entertained right now. And there's been a change…Linus has said we're not going to go out and sing "Kum Bah Ya" anymore. We're moving past that. We are gay, we're here, and we don't need to do that anymore. We don't need to stay focused in the struggle of the gay people. Just give good performances and continue to survive and appear to become a well-known musical group and accepted within the city as a whole is a real accomplishment.

JD: Kind of visibility with excellence.

RH: Right, absolutely.

And I also spoke with long time chorus member David Gebo.

David Gebo Comments (2010)

How long have you been a member of the chorus:

DG: Since November of 1993.

JD: And there were probably other choruses you could have joined, why did you join the Gay Men's Chorus?

DG: Because it was called the Gay Men's Chorus of Houston. It was identified as a gay organization.

JD: And what has being a member meant to you over the years?

DG: I think when I was a kid I would have loved to have seen an organization of people in performance who claimed who they were outright and were proud of it and willing to stand on a stage and sing about it. And I know that being part of this organization has changed people's lives. And that's the best part, is that I think it gives people a chance to know that you too can be out and proud and it can all be good.

JD: Has what it means to you changed over the years?

DG: Not really, it's grown richer because we've have gotten to meet people, gay and straight alike, who have really been moved by what we have to say, and what we're able to accomplish and what we're trying to do. We're technically not a political organization, it's really about the music, and music is the universal language, and to hear the validation of how much people have enjoyed our shows, and have really seemed to get what we're doing, it has been really gratifying. You know, this is my 18th season with this group and it's something that I have to do. I enjoy singing so much, and I love this group.

JD: What do you see as the future of gay choruses?

DG: I would like to see gay choruses with a lot more outreach, not just confined to the gay and lesbian culture, but to be as inclusive as we want the world to be as inclusive of us. So, have us perform concerts for anybody to see, and I think that's where we're moving to.

Dr Linus Lerner Interview

After the rehearsal I sat down with Dr Learner for our interview.

Tell me a little about your background.

Dr Linus Lerner: I'm from Brazil where I was a conductor since was 18. I also play the guitar since I was 13, I had an orchestra of guitars in Brazil. 18 I started conducting, at 22 I sang my first opera, as a baritone, and age 27 I was singing opera professionally and conducting a lot of choruses and some instrumental groups. And then when I came to the United States from a competition I did there both singing and conducting. And then I came to the United States I have a Masters Degree at the College Conservatory of Cincinnati, and I decided to do another Masters Degree in orchestral conducting, at Florida State, and then after that I did a doctorate degree in conducting, specializing in opera at the University of Arizona. But all this time keep conducting and working with choruses and other instrumental groups, and singing and coaching all over the world. So basically 24 years of experience conducting chorus now, about 20 years singing and so on.

JD: And how did you get to your position in Houston?

LL: I had a gay chorus which became a men's chorus with a beautiful mission to help people with HIV in Tucson, Arizona, where I was doing my doctorate degree. Once I finished that I was looking to leave and they made me stay another two years, they gave me a green card, and I bought a house there. But then I thought I still want to go to a bigger city, the opportunity appeared here, and here I am. This is my second year, my second season with the chorus. And I'm already very involved with other aspects of the community.

JD: So this is your second gay chorus, what was the name of that chorus?

LL: Reveille…first Reveille Gay Men's Chorus, and now Reveille Men's Chorus.

JD: So tell me about the first one and how this experience is different from that one.

LL: The first gay chorus started about eight years ago, so I worked with them for probably six years or so. It was actually, I was still in school and a friend mine said, "Linus, there's this position opening with a gay chorus," and I said, "what is a gay chorus anyway? I didn't have that idea, being a Brazilian, we don't have gay choruses in Brazil. So I thought let me go and try and see what I can do, because I do have experience with choruses. And it ended up being a very interesting one because just male voices, I did that in Brazil a lot, and I also did female voices, so I was excited with the sound. It was a small group, was very intense because every voice really counts more than anything else. I mean, here too but it's easy to get lost your voice when you have 70 or 100 people. So with 20-some singers everybody needs to know very well what they are doing. So when we went to GALA festival in Montreal and also in Miami people really liked the chorus and the sound. We actually have 25 people and we sound like 50, a big sound.

And that's one of the things that brought attention for me to come to Houston was that some members of this chorus saw me conducting and said, we've got to bring this guy here, so they invited me to apply. And there you go…one reason is to work with a bigger chorus, right now as I mentioned tonight at the rehearsal we have about 70-some members, and that's like three times the size that I had in Tucson. And I liked that, and same with the women, we have 52 singers now, so it's a big growth from last year, from 50 to 70-some, and we're still receiving..I mean, we had a new member tonight, so the difference is size. Quality wise this chorus has 30 years of history. In Tucson the chorus has about 16 years now. And we can do better, bigger projects here with more of a bigger community. Houston is such a big city, so many opportunities.

JD: For some people there's an issue on whether or not a gay chorus should have the word gay in their title, and there are various reasons pro or con, how do you feel about that?

LL: I honestly don't like labeling, but I understand the reasons that people believe we should keep gay. I mean, as you see, all this bullying, all these kids killing themselves, it's still there, we need to do something, and as I always say, you know, Tucson is very, very proactive, very open-minded, much more than Texas…I mean, we are in Texas. It's a very more difficult community to understand those issues or to accept for just the history, so I think here the gay name, the gay part of the name still has so much to do, until we actually can drop that. But it is a debate, some people will disagree with me in either way, because I really don't have a strong position right now, just let it be. I took the chorus here as the Gay Men's Chorus of Houston, I'm not going to change, because I know I would create a big problem right there. Actually I hope that in the future we don't need gay choruses anymore, we don't even need to mention anything like that, because now you can be gay anywhere. In the past gay choruses exist so that you can find safety, you can feel comfortable in a sort of family setting, in a community.

JD: Have there been any thoughts to organizing a Gay youth chorus in Houston?

LL: There is, in fact BCPA is engaging other groups, we might next year have the Pride Band joining us, maybe part of BCPA, and that's the next step. After that we are thinking about a youth chorus, we are even thinking about a men's chorus, and we're thinking about an orchestra. If we keep growing Bayou City Performing Arts, as representative of community arts, without labeling and just being GLBT, we're going to be adding different groups, and then it makes even more a statement about diversity because we are not saying we just work with gays. I mean that's all GLBT per se, already the women's chorus is not a lesbian chorus. It's called Bayou City Women's Chorus, because it's mixed and I really don't even know who is lesbian who is not because it's not part of our agenda, but I know from what they tell me it's pretty much 50-50, and I think that's really beautiful when we don't care about that anymore, at least within our own group.

JD: Is there networking done between other gay choruses, or should there be more?

LL: This chorus has done things with Austin and maybe San Antonio as well and probably we're going to do something with Dallas, the Turtle Creek Chorale, I think they've done that before.

JD: When I was thinking of networking I wasn't just thinking of performing together. I was thinking of communicating and maybe exchanging material, or, here's this great song…

LL: Oh yeah, that's why GALA festivals, GALA…happens all the time. We just had one in Dallas, there was a leadership conference that brings all the conductors of the GALA choruses, which is all the country, and the do that, they exchange music, they think about how we can contribute to each other, so that is happening through GALA Choruses Inc, which is representative of all the GLBT choruses in the country, so I think it's in pretty good shape. GALA is doing a great job on that.

JD: Without naming any choruses you've personally been involved with, what do you think are the best gay choruses in the United State?

LL: I think it is probably still the Turtle Creek Chorale in Dallas. They have so much history, they have a lot of members, they have a very good sound, that Tim Seelig worked so many years at, and I think that is one of the best, if not the best. Now, for example Seattle is the biggest community chorus in the world, but when I hear them at the last GALA (Festival) I mean it was this huge group of people singing, and yet I almost had more sound with my 25 people in Tucson than with 200 that was on stage, 150 that was on stage from Seattle, because with so many people sometimes it's not so easy to work, it's easy to have a result, so many people singing, but you can work so much in sound with a certain size of group. So it's really hard, and we're not there to compete and I think Turtle Creek is a big chorus and there are lots of small groups that are absolutely amazing, San Francisco Golden Gate Chorale, one of them is just absolutely out of this world.

JD: What is the biggest challenge for a gay chorus?

LL: The biggest challenge for a gay chorus these days is membership, I mean, everybody's busy, a lot of groups are losing members, cause I think it's not such a safe place anymore, you can be gay in any other places. So they don't need to be in a gay chorus to be out. I think that's one of the biggest challenges. The other challenge is that we are going artistically-wise to sort of down the hill, no more (music) education in the schools, no preparation, so we get not so well-prepared people. The choral community it's not so engaged as it used to be in the past, although it's still the biggest type of community music making in the country and probably in the world. I think the biggest challenge is money, cause to put a show you need a lot of money and there's not much money out there. And people that give to an opera, people that give to an orchestra, don't give to a gay chorus. They're still giving but even those big donors are not giving as much, so I think you need to work hard. Money, in any aspects, principally because it's a community group, and if people don't feel the necessity of a gay choruses anymore then they don't want to give for that. Like what's the point, a lot of people ask, what's the point to give to a gay chorus now, you can be gay anywhere.

JD: One of your members who I was talking to this evening commented that he thought Turtle Creek got more sponsorship because they didn't have gay in their name.

LL: Oh, absolutely, that is obvious. We got some grants here, as the Gay Men's Chorus of Houston, of institutions that give because we have the gay, so they can say, we support. But then they go, if they give us $5000, they go and give $50,000 to another group where the whole purpose is to be against the whole gay issue. So they want to be there saying, we're supporting you guys. But they are not if you think about it, they will give away much more money to go against us, and there's plenty of groups that do that. Now when you don't have the gay attached to it, then they are giving to the arts or whatever, cause the gay issue is not there. Normally some corporations that give money, they don't really come to the shows, they just support and they don't care how gay is or how gay-themed is that show. They will just give. One reason we create BCPA here is so that we could…I also have people that want to donate but are afraid to donate to something related to gay, but they want to donate, I mean, that's the reality of the beast.

JD: Any question I should ask that I didn't ask?

LL: Well, just to make it very clear, I always tell my parents, I'm gay, I'm very proud and I brought that idea here, so that we get out of that excusing ourselves. I'm very proud. I tell my parents that if was to be born again for the next ten times, please, I want to be gay, as gay as it gets, because I got the best from my life from being gay, and I'm very happy about it, and I think my life wouldn't be nearly as fun, interesting and engaging, and changing the world if I wasn't gay. I totally agree on that, but I also think that because I don't make a big issue of it, like I have an orchestra that I totally think is cool that they never brought up that issue. I was the gay conductor in the city when I got the job from 79 people from all over the world, and to show that people don't care about this anymore as they used to. They are accepting, but if I go out there and show them that I don't really make a big deal, that I'm just who I am, then people will accept me even better. But I need people to understand that I am not excusing myself for being gay, much to the opposite I am proud, and happy, and…but I don't also have to go in the face of people and say look, I am gay and you are not, I mean, I am who I am, and in that matter, yeah, gay gay gay is great. As my mom says to me, gay is cool, gay's fashion, everybody's gay these days.

There are two versions of this segment. This is the radio one, where I'm limited to about 58 minutes, so I could only share about half of Dr Lerner's interview. You can hear a longer complete version with a couple of extra songs, on my website, again, that's at

The Bayou City Women's Chorus was formed in 2005 and has grown to about 70 members, and it's appeared on three of the CDs so far, "Uncommon Reflections" in 2007, and "Topsy Turvy" and "Winterlight" in 2009. Two songs from those recordings by the Women's Chorus are "Ordinary Miracles" and, from the musical "Chorus Line," the song "One."

Bayou City Women's Chorus - Ordinary Miracles (2009)
Bayou City Women's Chorus - One (2007)

Yes, she's the one. And this is JD Doyle for Queer Music Heritage, and I thank Andy Mills, Linus Lerner, and chorus members Richard Hudkins and David Gebo for the interviews for this segment, and I thank you for listening. It was hard to pick what songs to include, as I had seven CDs to pick from, making the choice for closing song all the more difficult. But I think a logical choice is one from the 2009 album "Topsy Turvy." This was a two-CD set which included all of the groups under the Bayou City Performing Arts umbrella, and there's a combination on it I had not played yet on this show. This is both the Gay Men's Chorus and the Bayou City Women's Chorus singing together, under the name Bayou City Chorale. And the song is a Holly Near anthem, called "The Great Peace March."

Bayou City Chorale - The Great Peace March (2009)

Portland Lesbian Choir - Simply Love (1996)
Artemis Singers - Leaping (2005)

Welcome back to Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and this is another segment of my special show, a tribute to the Gay & Lesbian Choral Movement. Where several of the segments were devoted to the history, or commissioned works, or interviews, this is one of two segments coming at you from a different angle. Again, this is Queer Music Heritage, and I love my music very blatant, so every song on these two hours will be lyrically gay, or in the case of those first two, lyrically lesbian. Those were two women's music classics, Holly Near's "Simply Love" and Sue Fink's "Leaping," also recorded by Meg Christian. These versions were by the Portland Lesbian Choir, from their 1996 album "Making Light" and the Artemis Singers, out of Chicago, from their 2006 album "25 Years."

Since I so love songs with gay lyrics, as I was preparing this series I created a data base of songs I was considering, knowing full well I could not include them all. Well, I'm not even going to get close on this category, as my list of lyrically gay songs that I especially liked came up to about a hundred. So what you hear will be the painful result of just picking the best of the best, at least in my subjective opinion. Hey, I'm the producer, I get to pick. And next I'm picking two more songs by women's choruses. First by the Common Woman Chorus from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. From their album "25 Years, 25 Songs" is "I Want a Girl."

Common Woman Chorus - I Want a Girl (2008)
SheWho - When a Woman (2004)

After the Common Woman Chorus was one from Philadelphia called SheWho, and from their 2004 album "The Earth Will Turn Over" was "When a Woman." Their name, SheWho, by the way, comes from a series of poems by Judy Grahn. And, out of Cleveland comes the North Coast Men's Chorus, and I love this chorus because they just do so much gay material. They have an album from 2008 I highly recommend called "Think Pink," and from it are three songs, "Why We Sing," "Kiss You Naked" and "Keep It Gay."

North Coast Men's Chorus - Why We Sing / Kiss You Naked / Keep It Gay (2008)

I'm going to indulge myself with this next song, as it's an 8 ½ minute medley of several of my favorite of what I call man-songs. From the 2000 album "Misbehavin'" you'll hear the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus do a number they call "That Man of Mine Medley." You'll recognize the individual songs.

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus - That Man of Mine Medley (2000)
Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus - Finally Here (2008)

And after all those man songs, that last one seemed very appropriate. It's called "Finally Here" and has been recorded by a number of gay choruses. That version was by the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus from their 2009 album "Holiday Hope."

Are you ready for a parade? Well, here's a song called "Parade" as done by Unison, the Windy City Singers and Aria, the Windy City Women's Ensemble. It's from their album from 2000 called "One."

Unison - Windy City Singers & Aria - Parade (2000)

That was written by Eric Lane Barnes and his music gets around. He's a prolific writer and I love his very queer sense of humor, as evidenced by this next set, which starts off with "Drama Queen."

Windy City Slickers- Drama Queen (1999)
Heartland Men's Chorus - I Do (2004)
Captain Smartypants - Vitamin Q (2004)

All written by Eric Lane Barnes, "Drama Queen" was from the 1999 CD "Sunday" by the Windy City Slickers, "I Do" was done by Kansas City's Heartland Men's Chorus, on their album "Heartland Pride," and last, that was Captain Smartypants, a wonderful ensemble of the Seattle Men's Chorus, doing "Vitamin Q."

Next I've got one by the Reveille Gay Men's Chorus, out of Tucson, Arizona. It's "The Boy from Ipanema" and is from their 2006 album "Pride." That chorus was let then by Dr Linus Lerner, who now is Artistic Director for the Houston choruses.

Reveille Gay Men's Chorus - The Boy From Ipanema ( 2006)

I'm using a couple of beautiful pieces by the Cincinnati Men's Chorus to close the first segment of my two-parter on chorus songs with gay lyrics. These are from the 2001 CD "Hearing Voices," a commissioned work written by Jeff Dobbins and Danny Ray. Jeff Dobbins, by the way, I also know for his wonderful musical "Bed, Boys & Beyond." The CD takes you through a century of gay history, and I'm sharing with you the opening and closing tracks, "Looking Back" and "Hearing Voices."

Cincinnati Men's Chorus - Looking Back (2001)
Cincinnati Men's Chorus - Hearing Voices (2001)

Rainbow Chorus - We Are Everywhere (1998)

That was the Rainbow Chorus of Ft. Collins, Colorado, from their 1998 album "Five Years of Freedom." And this is JD Doyle with another hour of GLBT chorus songs of the lyrically gay persuasion. And I'm going right into a beautiful piece done by the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus. It's the title track from their 2004 album "I Will Be Loved Tonight."

Chicago Gay Men's Chorus - I Will Be Love Tonight (2004)
New York City Gay Men's Chorus Chamber Choir - Before Stonewall (2004)

That was called "Before Stonewall" by the Chamber Choir of the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, and can only be found on a special CD done to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Stonewall in 2004. All the songs were written by Tom Wilson Weinberg and the CD was named "Don't Mess With Mary." And here's another history song also involving the New York City Gay Men's Chorus Chamber Choir. They backed up John Whitley on the title song on his wonderful 1997 album "History Remembers."

John Whitley & the NYCGMCCC - History Remembers (1997)
New York City Gay Men's Chorus - Love Don't Need a Reason (1991)

"Love Don't Need a Reason," written by Michael Callen, Peter Allen and Marsha Malamet is one of my favorite gay songs, and that version was from an early album by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, from 1991, called "Love Lives On." And this next song is also special to a number of choruses. The text was taken from the book series "Tales of the City," written by Armistead Maupin. These were books I adored when they came out in the late 70s and through the 80s. This particular text has been adapted for choruses and this time Armistead Maupin participates himself, with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, from their 2003 album "Closer Than Ever." It's called "Michael's Letter to Mama."

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus & Armistead Maupin - Michael's Letter to Mama (2003)

I get a kick out of playing this next song, as a friend of mine, Jay Kirsh, is lead soloist on it. He's a member of the Gay Men's Chorus of Houston, but when this song was recorded, in 1997, he was a member of the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus. From their album "The Spirit Says Sing" is "If I Had Only Known."

Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus - If I Had Only Known (1997)
Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus - Walk Hand In Hand (1994)
Positive Voices - Greater Than AIDS (1997)

And that middle track was "Walk Hand in Hand" by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, from 1994. That song has become their theme song. I followed it with a very inspirational one called "Greater Than AIDS" by an ensemble of the Cathedral of Hope congregation in Dallas, a chorus made up entirely of HIV positive singers. And that song was from their 1997 album "Until It's Over."

I want to get back to some songs in a lighter vein and a good place to start is with the Portland Lesbian Choir. You can hear on their 1996 album "Making Light" that the audience just loved what they did with the Captain & Tennille song "The Way I Want To Touch You." It will be followed by an even more irreverent version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," also known as "Wimoweh," by the New Mexico Women's Chorus.

Portland Lesbian Choir - The Way I Want To Touch You (1996)
New Mexico Women's Chorus - Wimoweh (2008)

I've got to include something from the group Pro Homo Voci, from Seattle. Their 1999 album was a special project by David Maddux, and how could I resist, the album title is "It's a Queer, Queer, Queer, Queer World!" From it is the title track, and it starts out already over the top.

Pro Homo Voci - It's a Queer, Queer, Queer, Queer World! (1999)
Seattle Men's Chorus ensemble Philandros - Mr Sandman (1990)
Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus - It's In His Kiss (2005)

Ah, yes, "It's In His Kiss" from the album "Bang, Bang, the Music of Cher," as done delightfully by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, in 2005, preceded by "Mr Sandman" by Philandros, an ensemble of the Seattle Men's Chorus from their 1990 album "Over the Rainbow." This is JD Doyle and I've got one more song for this segment, and I'm going to stray from the theme, but I think you'll forgive me. This last song is not lyrically gay, but how could I possible leave out the Transgender Gospel Choir? They've released two albums and one of them, from 2004, also features the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. They sing together the title track "Oh, Happy Day."

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus & Transgender Gospel Choir - Oh, Happy Day (2004)

London Gay Men's Chorus - All I Want For Christmas (2005)

Yes, "All I Want For Christmas" is you, sounds good to me. This is JD Doyle and this segment is an hour of Christmas songs as done by gay & lesbian choruses. It's part of my November special salute to choruses and gives you a dose of the holidays early. I opened with a chorus I like a lot, the London Gay Men's Chorus, and that was from their 2005 CD "Make the Yuletide Gay." I'm giving Christmas music two hours of this show, and I'm deliberately mostly staying away the standards and playing gay & lesbian chorus music you may not hear anywhere else. But if you do want standards, well, I can get that over with in a song by the Women's Chorus of Dallas. From their 2002 album "Season of Dreams" comes one called "Christmas, In About Three Minutes."

Women's Chorus of Dallas - Christmas, In About Three Minutes (2002)

Staying in Dallas for one more track is the Turtle Creek Chorale. From their 1997 release "Twisted Turtle Tinsel" comes "Miracle of Christmas." And after that is a song that doesn't seem to think Christmas is a miracle at all.

Turtle Creek Chorale - Miracle of Christmas (1997)
Chicago Gay Men's Chorus - I Don't Remember Christmas (2004)

That was the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus and "I Don't Remember Christmas," from their 2004 album "I Will Be Loved Tonight." And next is the same city, different chorus, with the Windy City Gay Chorus, starting with the song "Windy City Christmas," from their 1991 CD "Don We Now," and the song after that will start out very traditional. It starts out white, turns blue, and settles on lavender, all put together by Eric Lane Barnes, who was Director of the chorus during that time.

Windy City Gay Chorus - Windy City Christmas (1991)
Aria - Windy City Women's Ensemble - Shades of Christmas (1998)

Love that one. The Windy City Performing Arts organization has several groups as part of it. That song was by Aria, the Windy City Women's Ensemble, and other groups include Unison, who are the Windy City Lesbian & Gay Singers, and a male ensemble, The Windy City Slickers.

Up next is the Boston Gay Men's Chorus, from their 1996 album, "Freedom, Merriment & Joy" comes one written by Dean X. Johnson, called "Welcome! Sing! Be Merry!"

Boston Gay Men's Chorus - Welcome! Sing! Be Merry! (1996)
Reveille Gay Men's Chorus - Santa's Choir (2004)

And that was "Santa's Choir" by Tucson's Reveille Gay Men's Chorus, from their 2004 album "Christmas Collection."

This next set covers three coasts, well, really two, you'll see what I mean. It starts with the South Coast Chorale from Long Beach and "Holiday Brunch," from their 1994 album "Christmastime," and then heads north to the West Coast Singers, a gay & lesbian chorus from Los Angeles, which was founded in 1983, and is one of the oldest mixed choruses in the country.

South Coast Chorale - Holiday Brunch (1994)
West Coast Singers - What a Gay Old Christmas Tree (2006)
North Coast Men's Chorus - Three Fagrigals (2004)

And the third coast from that set was the North Coast Men's Chorus, and that creative arrangement was by David Maddux. And where would you put the North Coast? Well, in Cleveland, of course. That track was called "Three Fagrigals" and you won't find it on any album, so I much thank one of their members for getting that to me.

If you're looking for perhaps the most well-known lyrical gay Christmas song, I give the nod to "Coming Out at Christmas," with lyrics by Dean X. Johnson. It's a holiday concert standard across the world, and I have in on several different chorus CDs. But I picked the version from 2006 by the Gay Men's Chorus of Houston.

Gay Men's Chorus of Houston - Coming Out At Christmas (2006)

That was from the album "A New Season - Live" listed as by the Bayou City Performing Arts. That's the umbrellas organization in Houston that houses the Gay Men's Chorus, the Bayou City Women's Chorus, and several small ensembles. From that same album is one that I find very moving, every time I hear it. It was written by Fred Small, who also wrote the chorus standard "Everything Possible," and the song was based on real-life hate crimes that took place in Billings, Montana, in 1993.

Gay Men's Chorus of Houston - Not In Our Town (2006)

It was written by Eric Lane Barnes, and you can hear my interview with him on my February 2005 show, where he talks about that song and many others.

Cincinnati Men's Chorus - Am I Welcome Here (2002)

As done by the Cincinnati's Men's Chorus, from their 2002 CD "A Homemade Holiday."

Now in the introduction I said I was going to mostly avoid the standards, but I quite like this one and they pack a lot of excellence into a minute and nineteen seconds. The group is called Gloria, Ireland's Gay & Lesbian Choir and the song is "Ring Christmas Bells."

Gloria, Ireland's Gay & Lesbian Choir - Ring Christmas Bells (2004)

This is JD Doyle closing this segment of Queer Music Heritage with a very up song, a chorus doing dance music, and not just any dance music, but one by the Weather Girls, so you better listen. It's the New York City Gay Men's Chorus from their CD "A Holiday Homecoming" from 2002, and "Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man For Christmas)."

New York City Gay Men's Chorus - Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man For Christmas) (2002)

Gay Liberation Quire - Hark the Herald Fairies Shout (1983)

I love to start off a xmas show with the Gay Liberation Quire. That group is from Sydney and the song comes from a 4-song EP from 1983. And for the youngsters, an EP was a 7-inch vinyl record with two songs on each side. This is JD Doyle with Queer Music Heritage, and if you found this show you know it's part of a multi-hour salute to the gay & lesbian choral movement. It's the second of two xmas segments, because well, there's lots and lots of choruses doing holiday albums. Out of the roughly 130 chorus CDs in my collection about a fourth are for the holidays. And yes, there are lots and lots of versions of the standards. I won't be playing those; you can find "Ave Maria" and "Winter Wonderland" somewhere else. I'm going next something more cool, specifically a bit of jazz called "Cool Yule," by the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus.

Chicago Gay Men's Chorus - Cool Yule (2001)
Heartland Men's Chorus - Christmas Kisses (2003)

"Cool Yule" was the title track of the 2001 album by the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, and after them was "Christmas Kisses" by Kansas City's Heartland Men's Chorus. That's from their 2003 CD "Let Heaven & Nature Sing." And up next, something very queer.

Mystery Date - All I Want For Christmas Is You (2003)

I love that one. It was written by Ernie Lijoi, an artist I like quite a bit, who has several excellent solo albums. Singing the song was a group called Mystery Date, and backing them up were members of the New York City Gay Men's Chorus, and the song appears on the Chorus' album from 2003 called "A Holiday Homecoming." And here's one by Uptown Express, an ensemble of the New York City Gay Men's Chorus. It's unusual to find a chorus ensemble performing on a non-chorus CD, but that's where I found this one, as guests on a various artist's compilation called "Jamie DeRoy & Friends." She's a New York City cabaret artist who has issued a number of compilations, with this one being from 1992. The song is called "Remember."

New York City Gay Men's Chorus' Uptown Express - Remember (1992)
Potomac Fever - Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC - That Special Time of Year (1998)

Okay, that one, called "That Special Time of year," snuck some standards in on me, but not too many. It was by Potomac Fever, the close-harmony ensemble of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC, from their 1998 album "In Our Lifetime." And, I really like this next one, as it speaks to our community. It was written by John-Michael Albert and you can find it on the 1995 album "To Friends and To Life" by the Gay Men's Chorus of Houston. At the time he was Artistic Director of that chorus, and at the 1992 GALA Festival the song was a competition winner. And it's also been recorded by other choruses. It's called "A Season for Lovers."

Gay Men's Chorus of Houston - A Season for Lovers (1995)
Renaissance City Men's Choir - Sing We Now of Christmas (2003)
Voices of Pride - Gay Chorus of the Palm Beaches - If Not at Christmas (2009)

The middle song of that set was "Sing We Now of Christmas" by the Renaissance City Men's Choir. They are out of Pittsburgh, and out of Florida is Voices of Pride: Gay Chorus of the Palm Beaches, with "If Not at Christmas." I'm trying to also work in a number of smaller choruses on these shows, and I got that track from their Youtube page.

I love this next song, and it's sung quite nicely by the Cincinnati Men's Chorus on their album from 2002 "A Homemade Holiday." It was written by Eric Lane Barnes. Pay attention to the words, as they speak directly to what some of us may have dreamed for in our youth. It's "Miss Twinkleton's School for Sensitive Boys."

Cincinnati Men's Chorus - Miss Twinkleton's School for Sensitive Boys (2002)

And staying on the light side, back in 2003 David Blue, the Artistic Director of the Rainy City Gay Men's Chorus, which was then a chorus in Vancouver, sent me an unreleased CD of their previous Christmas show, made up totally of his compositions, and they included some very fun, and very queer material, like "A Date for Christmas" and "Homo for the Holidays."

Rainy City Gay Men's Chorus - A Date for Christmas (2002)
Rainy City Gay Men's Chorus - Homo for the Holidays (2002)

A chorus in Manchester, New Hampshire? Sure, they're celebrating their 12th anniversary this year and a track from "Nostalgic Holiday," their 2001 album, tells us "It Must Be the Holiday Season."

New Hampshire Gay Men's Chorus - It Must Be the Holiday Season (2001)

We're visiting Atlanta and Austin for the next two. The Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus included the song "Christmas Time Is Here" on its 1998 album "Carols, Revels and Holiday Cheer," and in 2000 the song "Still Still Still" could be found on a recording called "Northern Lights," by the Capital City Men's Chorus.

Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus - Christmas Time Is Here (1998)
Capital City Men's Chorus - Still Still Still (2000)

Up next is a beautiful song, written by John Bucchino, and sung by the Seattle Men's Chorus, called "Together." It's from their 2001 album "Joy" and after it is another by them, called "Home for the Holidays," this time from their 1995 CD "Holiday Concert, Captured Live."

Seattle Men's Chorus - Together (2001)
Seattle Men's Chorus - Home for the Holidays (1995)

This is JD Doyle closing down the second hour of the xmas music part of this chorus marathon, and I can't think of a more rousing, and more fun way to do it than with the Turtle Creek Chorale. From their 1997 release "Twisted Turtle Tinsel" comes "Jalapeno Chorus."

Turtle Creek Chorale - Jalapeno Chorus (1997)

Brisbane Lesbian & Gay Choir - Equality (2006)

Very nice. From Australia that was the Brisbane Lesbian & Gay Choir, and the song "Equalty" from their 2006 album of the same name. This is JD Doyle with my salute to the music of Gay & Lesbian choruses, and this is my special segment on international choruses. It did not take long after the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus started the movement for choruses in other countries to take their place. One of the first, also in Australia was the Gay Liberation Quire. They released a vinyl EP in 1983, but began touring at least a year earlier. From a live concert they did in 1982 here's their version of "Teddy Bears Picnic."

Gay Liberation Quire - Teddy Bears Picnic (1982)
Melbourne Gay & Lesbian Youth Choir - Throw Your Arms Around Me (2008)

After the Gay Liberation Quire was the Melbourne Gay & Lesbian Youth Choir, and I'm pleased to bring you something from a youth group. The song "Throw Your Arms Around Me" is from their 2008 CD "Count Me In," and that's about the only recording I know of by a youth choir. It's a branch of the Melboure Gay & Lesbian Chorus, and from that group's 1996 album "Kaleidoscope" is "I Am What I Am."

Melbourne Gay & Lesbian Chorus - I Am What I Am (1996)
Canberra Gay & Lesbian Qwire - Some of My Best Friends Are Straight (2002)
Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir - When We Are Old and Gay (1993)

I stayed in Australia for the rest of that set. The Canberra Gay & Lesbian Qwire gave us "Some of My Best Friends Are Straight," from their 2002 recording "ACQwired Taste." And by the way, they spell choir q-w-i-r-e. And then from the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir was a very nice song that I don't think anyone else has recorded, called "When We Are Old and Gay." It's on the album "Something To Sing About," from 1993.

In this segment I'll be playing a number of songs sung in foreign languages, and will break you in gently with one sung in both English and German, by a mixed chorus from Frieburg, Germany. They are called Queer Floten and from their album "Schnitchen" is "Thank You For the Music."

Queer Floten - Thank You For the Music (2001)
Die Schrillmanner - Queereality Show (1997)
Schola Cantorosa - Rosarotes Raumschiff (1995)

Ah, yes, the "Mary Poppins" song in German, by a chorus named Schola Cantorosa from Hamburg. They included that track on their 1995 album "Gays In Space." And in the middle of that set was a special recording done in 1997 at the 9th European Gay and Lesbian Choir Festival. They called that number "Queereality Show," and the chorus, from Karlsruhe, Germany, was DieSchrillmanner.

From Germany we're going to Manoeuvre, the Gay Men's Chorus of Amsterdam, and from 2008 is their version of "Suddenly Seymour." And then on to Helsinki, Finland, with a very Village People-ish song.

Manoeuvre - Gay Men's Chorus of Amsterdam - Suddenly Seymour (2008)
Helsinki Gay Chorus Out 'n Loud - Var Ar Min Midja (2007)
Carmen Curlers - Sit On My Face (2010)

Ah, what can I say about that one, except the Danish group Carmen Curlers sure had a lot of fun doing it. How about one in French? From Paris are Melo Men, and the very pretty "Plaisirs d'Amour" from their 2006 album "A Tout Choeur."

Melo Men - Plaisirs d'Amour (2006)
London Gay Men's Chorus - Gimme Gimme Gimme (1998)
Vancouver Men's Chorus - Blind Date (2006)

That was the Vancouver Men's Chorus singing about their "Blind Date." That's from their 2006 album "Encore," and they were the first gay chorus in Canada. Before them, of course was "Gimme Gimme Gimme (a Man After Midnight)," as done by the London Gay Men's Chorus. There were a number of songs I could have just as easily picked by them, from several albums. I think they are terrific.

I bet you've never heard a song quite like this next one. It's called "Pride's Child" and is by a group from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada called the Rainbow Harmony Project. The point of view of the song is very queer.

Rainbow Harmony Project - Pride's Child (2009)
Deep C Divas - Big Boned Gal (2002)
Stockholm's Gaykor - I Feel Pretty / Wonderful Guy (Love Changes Everything, 2005)

After the Rainbow Harmony Project were the Deep C Divas, from Yorkshire, England, and "Big Boned Gal," from 2002, followed by the Swedish group called Stockholm's Gaykor. Their 2005 album "Love Changes Everything," was roughly half sung in English and half in Swedish. From the English half, that was a medley of "I Feel Pretty" and "Wonderful Guy."

We're near the end of this hour and I'm sharing one more by the Vancouver Men's Chorus, from their 2006 album "Encore." It was written by Randi Driscoll and has a lot to say. It's called "What Matters."

Vancouver Men's Chorus - What Matters (2006)
Prairie Pride Chorus - Maybe (2006)

Well, "Maybe." From Regina, Saskatchewan, was the Prairie Pride Chorus from their 2006 album "Watershed Stories."

This is JD Doyle and of course the point of this segment is that we are everywhere and so are gay & lesbian choruses. I could easily fill two or three more hours with the music of international choruses. I mentioned in the very first segment that "Everything Possible" was the most recorded non-holiday song, as done by gay & lesbian choruses, with over 30 versions. Well, close behind was one I just can't leave out. I'm closing this segment with Gloria - Ireland's Lesbian & Gay Choir. From their album from 2006 is "Over the Rainbow."

Gloria - Ireland's Lesbian & Gay Choir - Over the Rainbow (2006)