GAY MENS CHORUS – A Brief History



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This week on Pinksixty Entertainment we look at the world of the Gay Men’s Chorus

“Deck the halls with bows of holly. Falalalaa, la la la la.”

‘Tis the season to be jolly – and while carols are synonymous with this time of year, the power of song is celebrated all year round by the many voices that make up the global LGBT choral movement.

San Francisco is home to the first ever Gay Men’s Chorus, founded by music pioneer Jon Reed Sims in 1978.

Sims was inspired to form a number of performing arts groups by gay rights activist, Harvey Milk, after hearing his Hope Speech.

Other US cities soon followed, with the New York and Los Angeles groups forming in 1979 – within months, members of the LA chorus joined the National March on Washington for lesbian and gay rights.

By the early 80s, the movement had spread across North America and began to advance through Europe. London’s Gay Men’s Chorus was founded in 1991 with other groups forming in Australia and New Zealand within a year.

Today, San Francisco has one of the world’s largest gay choruses, with a membership of over 300.

Throughout the 80s and early 90s, choruses such as the SFGMC focused heavily on the impact of AIDS, experienced first hand.

Famous San Francisco author and gay rights activist Armistead Maupin introduced the SFGMC to the world, with inclusion in the third instalment in his celebrated Tales of the City series, released in 1982.

Maupin collaborated with SFGMC for their 2016 Spring concert, titled ‘Tales of our City’, bringing the author’s literary work to life through music and song while celebrating forty years since the initial launch of the books.

Community outreach has also been central to the ethos and principles of the global gay men’s chorus with groups taking their positive message of inclusion, acceptance and empowerment to communities far and wide.

“The chorus is really getting out there. In the years that I’ve been in the chorus we’ve had so many initiatives that have happened.”

“Not only are we doing our regular performances, but we’re reaching out. We’re going across the country with our ‘It Gets Better’ programme.”

“We take a message of understanding, temperance and we take it to communities that are disconnected.” The quadrennial GALA Festival held in Denver in 2016 had a record-breaking 6,500 singers and is understood to have brought over $14m to the local economy.

The highlight of every chorus’s calendar is the annual Christmas fund-raising concert, with almost every major western capital enjoying a festive gig courtesy of its own chorus.

San Francisco’s annual Christmas Eve show, ‘Home for the Holidays’, has been thrilling carol lovers since 1990, and this year was pre-empted with an ‘Elfstravaganza for an extra dose of festive cheer.

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