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May 6, 2011

Gay Men's Chorus belies its name

Los Angeles Times:

Near the end of last month's three-concert run at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles paused to share some quiet time and recognize those who contributed to the shows' success.

The tribute session took an unexpected turn when one of the group's newest singers raised his hand to speak. "I want to thank everyone for welcoming me," said tenor Chris Yraola, a 24-year-old music teacher from Eagle Rock. "It means a lot because, No. 1, I'm a little shy. And, No. 2, well, I'm a straight guy."

For a second, there was silence — "It was definitely a surprise," Yraola recalls — and then applause broke out. Some people hugged him. Some told him how proud they were. And someone yelled, "Jordan, your cachet just went down by half!" to Jordan Bell, a second-year bass who had been known as the ensemble's only openly straight singer.

"It was an important moment," says executive director Thom Lynch, one that he believes represents the evolution of his 32-year-old chorus specifically and of gay choruses in general. "There was a point in the early '80s when just having a group of gay men standing and singing was political and made a statement. These days, groups like ours are committed to making spectacular music — which attracts a wider range of singers and audiences. It's not that the political isn't there. But now, the way to make that statement is to be as good as we can be."

Bell, a 24-year-old marketing manager from upstate New York, studied voice and belonged to a men's ensemble in college. When he moved to Los Angeles in 2009, he was happy to discover the 220 plus-member chorus, which has released more than a dozen CDs and toured internationally.

"Immediately, one question popped into my head," Bell says. "Was I allowed to join?" He emailed "a sort of sheepish" query and received "a welcoming response" from the membership president. "He did ask if I'd feel comfortable if people assumed I was gay. I had thought about it, and I knew it was not going to weird me out." Read more.

Posted by acapnews at May 6, 2011 10:28 PM

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