Choruses and Bands provide music, LGBT pride and flare throughout the region
by Jack Kirven . Q-Notes staff
North and South Carolina are home to a variety of music organizations that give queer and queer-friendly people the chance to come together and perform. By providing safe havens within the rehearsals they create places for camaraderie. By offering performances they create visibility. Aside from the beauty of the music they present, these groups also have value in that they celebrate diversity while making political statements with the programs they assemble. Some concerts are whimsical, some are overtly charged with commentary, all are vehicles for supporting community and accessibility.
One Voice Chorus — Charlotte, N.C.
After nearly 17 years One Voice Chorus is one of the best established LGBT choruses in the region. In fact, if you were to look at the programs from their first concerts you would see that many of the singers declined to have their names listed because — at the time — people were still reserved about coming out completely. Since that time many strides have been made in the community, so this practice may seem almost strange; however, it speaks not only to the longevity of the group, but also to the resilience of the performers and the LGBT culture of the Carolinas.
Aside from this distinction, One Voice Chorus has been a mixed gender group since its inception. Although it is more common now, for many years One Voice Chorus was one of only a handful of LGBT choruses around the world that brought male and female singers together. This group is also open to people of all skill and experience levels, so don’t worry about an audition. One Voice is an inclusive organization and they welcome anyone who has interest in coming to rehearsals and performances. Simply find your way to the Unitarian Universalist Church (UUC) on Sharon Amity in Charlotte on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and start singing the variety of choral music the group is widely celebrated for singing.
One Voice Chorus performs concerts that have a spirit of inclusion woven into them. Whether it be selecting music by LGBT composers, songs from other cultures or mixing autobiographical stories into the musical selections, One Voice welcomes people of all backgrounds. Their next performance is Dec. 7-8 at UCC. For more information, visit www.onevoicechorus.com.
Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus — Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Since 1995 Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus has been presenting programs that feature any type of music that can be arranged for all male choruses. Comfortable with jazz, classical, spiritual, Broadway and pop, the group prides itself on being able to skillfully perform a wide palette of music styles that pleases a diverse audience. Like many groups across the region, they rehearse on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. The men assemble at Durham Arts Council each week and they offer three or four performances each season. They accept new members during the first weeks of August, October and January of each year. Look for their next performance on Sept. 29 for the NC Pride Festival. For more information, visit www.tgmchorus.com.
Triad Pride Men’s Chorus — Greensboro, N.C.
In late 1998, three men from Greensboro who had been driving to the Triangle area every week to sing with the nearest gay men’s chorus decided to take a chance. Hoping that there would be enough interest in and support for a gay men’s chorus in the Triad, they advertised for singers. Over 20 men showed up in January of 1999 from area towns, all eager to join together in pride and song. In June of that year they had their first concert and since then the chorus has doubled in size. Membership is open to gay and gay-affirming male singers. Recently the group gave a series of performances entitled “Divalicious,” which included a variety of works ranging from Mozart to Madonna. For more information, visit www.triadpridemenschorus.org.
Cantaria: The Gay Men’s Chorus of Asheville — Asheville, N.C.
This chorus has been in existence since the ’80s and has had a very busy schedule ever since. They have performed in venues and concerts around the country, and have a tradition of singing for Pride festivals as well. They have been hosted by Piccolo Spoleto and had their international debut at the 2004 GALA in Montréal. All gay men and gay-inclusive men are welcome. The ability to read music is helpful, but not required. For more information visit www.cantariaasheville.org.
Common Woman Chorus — Durham, N.C.
The Common Woman Chorus is a feminist organization that encourages friendship and the open exchange of beliefs and insights through song. The name of the group is derived from a Judy Grahn poem that reads, in part, “a common woman is as common as a common loaf of bread… and will rise.” The group performs primarily at fundraising and political events.
The Common Woman Chorus repertoire features empowering music that highlights the diversity and strength of women’s everyday lives and experiences. Performances typically include testimonies of Holocaust survivors, scores that showcase the integrity and inherent worth of individuals, reminders of historical abuse against women, songs that demonstrate the unique personal struggles of women and other politically charged works. Their original theatrical productions and unique twists on old standards (“I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad”) explain why they have been performing to standing room-only crowds since 1983.
The chorus has opened for Holly Near and numerous other progressive performers. The singers rehearse on Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m. No auditions are required and the group welcomes any woman who wishes to sing. For more information, visit www.commonwomanchorus.net.
Charlotte Gay Men’s Chorus — Charlotte, N.C.
Nearing the end of its first season, Charlotte Gay Men’s Chorus is already seeking to establish a tradition for itself. With 20 singers and an ear for variety the group is always looking for new members. To audition you will need to set up an appointment with John Quillin, the former director of One Voice Chorus. There’s no need to prepare a piece, simply set up a time to meet with him in order to do a pitch and rhythm memory test. Despite its name, women are welcome too, so long as they can sing in deeper registers and are willing to wear a tuxedo on stage.
Charlotte Gay Men’s Chorus prefers a lighter theme in its programs, but that doesn’t mean the group isn’t keeping an eye on politics. “We like to couch the more directly political themes in humor to make it more palatable, but we are definitely interested in what’s happening in the LGBT community,” says Quillin.
If you are interested in being part of the group, they rehearse every Monday at 7 p.m. at St. Martins Episcopal Church on Seventh St. in Charotte. All performances for this chorus start at 8:04 p.m. When asked if that was to allow some wiggle room in arriving, Quillin replied, “It’s so people will remember the time — you’ll remember it, won’t you?” Upcoming performances will occur in 2007 on Dec. 15 and in 2008 on March 29 and June 21. For more information, visit www.gmccharlotte.org.
Marching Pride South Carolina — Columbia, S.C.
The Marching Pride was formed in late 2003 in order to add color and music to the annual South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride March and Festival in Columbia. Their first public event was to play in the 2004 SC Pride March in May, which was followed up by the North Carolina Pride Parade and Festival in October 2004. In 2005 they performed at SC Pride, Atlanta Pride and NC Pride. In all of their events, thus far, they have played with the North Carolina Pride Marching Band and/or the Atlanta Freedom Marching Band. The sense of community and cooperation created by these collaborations fosters a deep sense of community amongst the members of this eager band. The Marching Pride performed with the entire Lesbian and Gay Band Association at Gay Games VII in Chicago. For more information, visit www.marchingpridesc.org.
North Carolina Pride Band — Durham, N.C.
Founded in 1987, The NC Pride Band was formed as a lesbian drum corps using traditional Latin and African hand drums. In 1996, the band took a new direction and reformed itself as a standard marching band with brass, woodwind and marching percussion.
The band has performed in the 1997 presidential inauguration, the Amsterdam Gay Games, Stonewall 25th Anniversary, the Millennium March on Washington, many LBGA Conferences and was present at the 2006 Chicago Gay Games.
The group’s goals are to “Bring people together from the heart of North Carolina, to build bridges between members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities, and to foster a love of music, which transcends sexual orientation, gender, race, age, and the other differences between people.” For more information visit www.ncprideband.org.
PowerFull — Charlotte, N.C.
The group performing this concert doesn’t have a name unto itself, but it is comprised of singers from One Voice Chorus and Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte. PowerFull is a fundraiser that will benefit Charlotte’s Pride Festival among other causes and organizations. The performance will be Aug. 18 at 8:04 p.m. at St. Martins Episcopal Church on Seventh St. in Charlotte. Admission is $10 in advance and a $12 donation is suggested if paying at the door. The program’s theme is empowerment and will be comprised of several solos, as well as four group songs. “I Sing, You Sing” is about the power of music while “Words” focuses on the damage that can be done through labels. “To the Mothers in Brazil” is dedicated to honoring familial ties and “Dreams of Thee” pays homage to romantic relationships.
John Quillin is fiercely proud of the role LGBT music groups have had in creating a series of flagstones for LGBT culture and history. “The oldest chorus is only 25. We’re just now coming to the end of the first generation and we are still dedicated to change,” said Quillin. He told me in an interview that he once knew a very eloquent man named Gary Miller who used to be the artistic director of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, one of the oldest in the country. Miller once said, “If you want to sing, join a chorus. If you want to change the world, join a gay chorus.” By tying visibility and social issues to their missions, all of these fine LGBT music organizations help develop and refine the memory of our movement for equality.
For more information visit, www.gmccharlotte.org.