22 men, choir director Charles Kurchinski raises his
hands, and the music flows. "Kiss today goodbye, the
sweetness and the sorrow." Brandon Payne's deep,
smooth solo begins a song from A Chorus Line. Other
voices soon join in.
ago--some say even very recently--most gay men
would have been uncomfortable singing show tunes in
public in Colorado Springs, Colo. On Saturday the
first gay men's choir in city history will debut as Out
Loud, the Colorado Springs Men's Chorus.
The new choir is
evidence that Colorado Springs's reputation as a place
where gays are unwelcome is outdated, members said. The
reputation dates at least to 1992, when state voters
approved a constitutional amendment written by a
Colorado Springs group that banned antidiscrimination laws
covering gays. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the
amendment in 1996. The city also is home to a number
of notoriously antigay megachurches and the
headquarters of Focus on the Family, run by leading antigay
Christian crusader James Dobson.
"People have been
very closeted in the past," said Guy McPherson, a
member of Out Loud and president of the group's board of
directors. "This is really a step forward to say
people are feeling more comfortable with being out in
the Colorado Springs community."
level was evident at a recent rehearsal, as choir members
tossed in jokes about sex and gender roles between Broadway
songs. Kurchinski reacted to Payne's Sinatra-like solo
by joking, "You sound so butch," and chuckles rippled
through the group.
knew that singing Broadway songs might prompt a few groans.
Gay men as the queens of musical theater is one of the most
enduring stereotypes of gay culture. Out Loud members
figured that shouldn't stop them, Kurchinski said. "I
think for me it's more about the music and less about
sexuality," he said. "It does perpetuate the
stereotype, but it's also a lot of fun."
Out Loud members
also aim to strengthen a sense of community among gay
people in Colorado Springs and demonstrate to outsiders that
gay culture is more than dance clubs and drag queens.
Such choirs are cultural fixtures in large cities such
as Philadelphia and Atlanta. The Gay and Lesbian
Association of Choruses tracks more than 200 groups and
10,000 singers on three continents.
Springs chorus became a member of the association this
month. Many members see a role model in the Denver Gay Men's
Chorus, founded in 1982, which performs at some of the
city's top concert venues.
The Denver chorus
has opened its music library to Colorado Springs and
offered technical support on getting the new chorus going.
"We help people change their minds," said Will Adams,
a member of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus who joined Out
Loud. "If we can reach out to one audience member and
change a perception about what it's like to be GLBT
and raise acceptance, then we really have succeeded in our
mission. If there's a community in Colorado that needs
that the most, it's Colorado Springs," Adams said.
Out Loud is the
latest local group that caters to gays and lesbians,
although few specifically exclude straight people. This is
the third year, for example, for the Colorado Springs
Gay Prom, an event for young people and others who
want to relive a prom experience. The Pikes Peak Gay
and Lesbian Community Center sponsors more than a dozen
clubs with specialized interests from mental illness
to hiking. Although Out Loud members said they would
welcome heterosexual singers, the group exists to give
voice to a way of life that isn't always embraced.
men's choirs would feature a trio singing "I'm Gonna
Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair," a selection from the Out
Loud program. One of the singers on that number, Jim
Doolittle, said Out Loud is balancing a desire for
sexual orientation to be irrelevant with wanting to
help build community among gay people. "We have to live in
the straight world every day, and so if we could be in a
choir where we could sing all sorts of things like
that, then that would be OK," he said.
The final song in
the Out Loud program moves away from the upbeat numbers
and double entendres of other selections. It's not even a
Broadway tune. "Our signature, it's not publicized in
our program, but kind of our standing-ovation song is
actually a song called 'Irish Blessing,'" Doolittle
said. "I think with our voices we are actually looking to
bless people's lives." (AP)