It was an emotional night recently for the members of the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus.

On Dec. 11-12, the group performed together in front of an audience for the very first time since COVID-19 began impacting public life in the U.S. one year and nine months ago. But while Chorus members were happy to perform together again, the holiday concerts were bittersweet as they were Anthony Cabrera’s last shows at the helm as its 14-year-long artistic director.

Said a representative for the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus on Facebook: “The reviews are in. ‘Repeat the Sounding Joy!’ was a huge success. Thank you to our friends and family who showed up for the outpouring of love. We enjoyed sharing and celebrating with all of you….as we bid Artistic Director Anthony Cabrera farewell as he begins a new adventure with the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida.”

The holiday concerts were held at the Coral Gables Congregational Church on Saturday, Dec. 11 and the All Souls Episcopal Church on Miami Beach Sunday, Dec. 12. For Cabrera, conducting his final concert at All Souls Episcopal Church was a full-circle moment.

“This very spot was the place I conducted my very first concert,” Cabrera said. “These last 14 years have been really special and have been an incredible training ground for me and an incredible opportunity to express myself artistically, sometimes very successfully. I count these men [and fellow chorus members] as a family but I can’t say goodbye without thanking you for 14 years of support, including unconditional support I get at home from my husband and my daughter.”

Cabrera ended the night and his tenure with the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus with the following message directed to the audience and supporters of the Chorus in general.

“For everything there is a season, but there is one thing that never goes out of season and that’s to be a good person and be a good person as often as you can. Love whoever you can, help wherever you can and give whenever you can. Be the embodiment of Mr. Rogers, the embodiment of Santa Claus…. and above all find joy in doing so….Thank you for being a part of tonight and I really appreciate you being here. That’s important to me and it’s important to [our chorus members] but what’s really important is that you walk out of these doors and be good people. And make the world a better place. And if you can sing somewhere and do it, then do it. Auditions are being held soon [at both Miami Gay Men’s Chorus and the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida]. It doesn’t matter where you go. Just go and make music and be good people. Happy holidays.”

Said Albert Camara on Facebook: “What a magical night with these amazing folks. Thanks to all who came to share with us in song and joy.”

Added Jesus Riviera, President of the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus, on Facebook: “Thank you so much for all of our friends and families who spent [their] evening ringing in the holidays together with us, your Miami Gay Men’s Chorus. We loved seeing everyone again in person and providing a little bit of the magic of the season.”

Joel Iglesia, a Tenor 1 member of the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus and recently appointed to the board of Unity Coalition | Coalicíon Unida, said the ultimate goal of the Chorus is to bring joy to others through music.

“Coming out of COVID, this was one of our first performances before an audience and trust it won’t be the last,” Iglesia said. “We’re here to celebrate and to bring joy and we’re going to continue doing that in 2022.”

Present at the holiday concerts were Luis Ramos, Elmer Olhaber and Eric Miji, original founding members of the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus, formerly known as the South Beach Gay Men’s Chorus when the group first formed in Christmastime 1999. Then, the group would sing Christmas carols on Lincoln Road.

“South Beach at that time didn’t have a chorus, so we really galvanized the community and brought a lot of people together,” Miji said. “It was a healing time for us [coming out of the AIDS pandemic] and a time for us to let our hair down and have fun.”

Flash forward 22 years later, Miji, Ramos and Olhaber are proud of how far the Chorus has come along.

“Anthony brought a lot of sparkle to the chorus. We wish him all the best in his next venture,” Miji said.

As President of the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus for the last two years, Jesus Riviera, who joined the chorus in 2018, said he has had “the pleasure to be with all these individuals who understand music and really bring everything together for the community through music and that impact we give to the community through our performances.”

“These were beautiful culmination performances with our Artistic Director Anthony Cabrera — an amazing human being, amazing mentor, amazing teacher and amazing man and friend, who has always been on our side and always teaches us to do the right thing and to be better people and to really impact people through the power of music,” Riviera said. “Anthony knows music and the community and is able to translate that through his singers like us and the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida and the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus. We are a whole brotherhood and sisterhood of singers and we are just so honored to be a part of that stage and we all support each other and we go to each other’s performances.”

Riviera said when COVID happened, the Chorus had to pivot and do virtual concerts.

“Now we’ve had the blessing to return and perform in person again and have all that emotion behind being socially isolated. Now to be able to really be engaged with people again has been amazing,” Riviera said.

Though Cabrera is moving on to the Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida in the same role as artistic director, he will be staying on as a consultant with the Miami Gay Men’s Chorus. Riviera said in 2022, there will be more pop-up concerts and more collaborations with other choruses.

“We want to create more opportunities for other organizations and the nonprofits we work with and we want to do more community work and really get out there in the community,” Riviera said.

Jose Cassola, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Republished with permission from Miami Gay News.