What would the holiday season be like without music? Hymns and carols traditionally ring in the season, while the songs of Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer offer nostalgic reminders of time spent with family and friends.

Wherever you go — from the mall to the gas station — the sounds of “Silver Bells” are sure to be heard. 

After a year off due to COVID-19, the 120-voice Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida (GMCSF) is busy preparing its own holiday musical offerings for the community, along with the highly anticipated debut of its new artistic director, Gabe Salazar.

Salazar and the chorus artistic planning team have “really fun” concerts planned, opening with “Holidays at Sunshine Cathedral” on Dec. 17 and followed by “Holidays at Hard Rock Live” on Dec. 19. 

“We’re coming back after a long time due to the pandemic and we selected uplifting music that would remind audiences of family and holidays and being together. You’ll hear classical numbers, some fun numbers, standard hits like Mariah Carey and some ethnic and Spanish songs. You can leave feeling a little better than when you walked in,” Salazar promised. 

At the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, the chorus will be joined by local jazz and cabaret singer LeNora Jaye, while recording artist and Broadway actress Deborah Cox will be featured at Hard Rock Live. 

Salazar, who was selected following a nationwide search, is looking forward to the opportunity to gather the members and lead them in song. The Texas native had conducted choirs and taught in Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois and California, but had relocated to Florida and just joined GMCSF as a singer when the position was announced. 

His experience singing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra chorus and teaching at the high school and university levels prepared him for the position and he has big plans for the GMCSF. 

“It’s similar, but with students you have to be stricter and more forceful in your expectations. These guys voluntarily give up so much of their time to be in the chorus, I have to approach it differently. I’m grateful for their dedication and energy,” he said. “Everyone is craving live performances and being together again. They’re so excited to sing again.” 

Following the holiday performances, Salazar’s priorities include expanding the performance schedule beyond Broward County and establishing a chorus program for LGBT and allied youth.  

“I’d like to see the chorus grow. I’d love to see us go on some sort of tour, maybe Carnegie Hall,” he said. “There are lots of big dreams, but nothing that’s beyond our reach, considering our leadership team, our board members and our singers.” 

But for now, he’s grateful for the support he’s received and is looking forward to finally stepping onto the podium at the Sunshine Cathedral and Hard Rock Live.

“It’s been a whirlwind in the best kind of way, fun and exciting. And the guys have been so receptive to me and my vision for the chorus, offering nothing but support and encouragement along the way,” he concluded.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida, under the director of Artistic Director Gabe Salazar, presents “Holidays at Sunshine Cathedral,” on Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $45 at GMCSF.org. Tickets for “Holidays at Hard Rock Live,” on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. start at $40 at Ticketmaster.com.