A New Gay Men’s Chorus Starts Singing
As the gay community integrates into more suburban communities, it is—of course—necessary to expand gay social and artistic groups. Therefore, despite having a South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus (SFGMC) in Fort Lauderdale, and a Miami Gay Men’s Chorus (MGMC), it is appropriate to launch one in Hollywood.
“People tend to think of South Beach and Wilton Manors as the big meeting places for the gay community in South Florida,” said Dale Penn, P.R. and marketing representative for Hollywood Gay Men’s Chorus. “Hollywood however, as it is sort of between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, is an ideal home for a new gay chorus. The city of Hollywood has been very welcoming and very supportive of the choir, in this experimental stage of development.”
The chorus will not compete with the two pre-existing choirs. Instead, they intend to work and perform with each other. As a third vocal option for singers, the new choir will even organize rehearsal dates and performances so as not to conflict, in case they end up sharing chorus members.
“There are a number of gay and lesbian choruses in the area, and that’s not unusual in a metropolitan area of our size. Furthermore, basically the founders of our group are the original founders of the South Beach, now MGMC,” said Penn, who was one of the South Beach choir’s founders as well. “The choral community is a great group of people. We’re all friends.”
To that end the local gay men’s choruses and the Lambda choir have all offered to share music with the new choir.
The founders of the Hollywood choir come with an extensive pedigree in terms of training and positions held in the field. The choir was described by Penn as the “brainchild” of Craig Fashbaugh, its founder.
Fashbaugh was a founding member of the Windy City chorus in Chicago, as well as the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. By 1999, he was one of the founding members of the South Beach Gay Men’s Chorus, which later became the Miami Beach Gay Men’s Chorus. In terms of establishing a chorus in Hollywood, Fashbaugh is very excited.
“Our Hollywood is one of the best kept secrets for music and the arts. They are committed to the arts, they even have three outdoor amphitheaters. They rebuilt the one in circle center which will open in December. They also plan to rebuild the one on the beach on the boardwalk,” said Fashbaugh, who sees great things happening with the chorus and the Hollywood arts scene at large.
Artistic Director William Carney has been a member of the voice faculty at Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus since 1994. He has also been a member of the New World School of the Arts in the theater and music divisions since 1999. Carney has worked in the Episcopal music tradition since 1970, with such notable churches as St. Thomas Church on 5th Ave in New York, and Miami’s Trinity Cathedral.
“We would like to maintain 80 percent music and 20 percent theater in our performances,” said Penn. “Between each song there will be skits or little theatrical tidbits, or a whole show where the music is connected via dialogue.”
To keep choir members on their toes, they have also engaged Founding Member and Choreographer Eric Miji, who began performing at age 16 and is thrilled to be a part of the Hollywood Gay Men’s Chorus. He was also a founding member of the South Beach GMC where he has directed one and choreographed several shows for them. The choreographer also has a rich background in American Musical Theatre that will certainly inform the choir’s performances.
Penn promises to focus more on showtunes, and hopes their performances will be more like a fun, Glee experience than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He says not to expect members in tuxedos standing on risers.
“We intend to be a show choir,” Penn told SFGN enthusiastically. “A show choir tends to have performances with a theme. In our case we want to do more popular, Hollywood and musical inspired music more so that classical choral music.”
The group also stresses they want to be more a community theatre, where both professional and shower-time singers will be treated equally. According to Penn, in places like Los Angeles there is a waiting list to be in the choir. Prospective crooners then audition and may or may not get a call back.
“With the HGMC we intend to take people that want to sing and teach them how. We’re not looking for professionals,” Penn stressed.
Their first audition will take place on Monday, September 13, at the McNichol Community Center on 28th Avenue, with rehearsals on following Mondays.
The group says these aren’t quite auditions as much as vocal placement. Their first show is scheduled for December 3, and while the group has not confirmed a title, they promise to sing out as scheduled.