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Gay History: Chicago Whispers
The beginnings of the gay marching band and choruses …
by Sukie de la Croix
2003-02-12

This article shared 3678 times since Wed Feb 12, 2003
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The beginnings of the gay marching band and choruses …

On Feb. 11, 1979, a meeting took place to form a band to march in that year's Gay and Lesbian Pride Week parade. About 18 people turned up with others unable to attend, but promising involvement. Issues discussed included what to name the band, what selections will be played, and what type of uniform or outfit to wear.

The Gay Pride Marching Band performed in the 10th annual Parade on June 24, 1979. The officers of the band were Nick Kelley, president; Tom Blackman, vice president; Don Heering, secretary; Claudia Krysiak, treasurer; and musical director, Mary Peck.

In late-September 1979 a new not-for-profit organization was set up called the Windy City Cultural and Performing Arts Inc. (WCCPA) which was an umbrella organization for the Gay Pride Band and 'a new chorus being formed.' President of the WCCPA was Nick Kelley.

The first meeting of the new chorus took place Oct. 9, 1979 at 7.30 p.m. at the Wellington church. The chorus was formed by Jerry Carlson, a member of the Marching Band, and Rick Garrin, a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. At the time, Carlson said: 'The chorus will have two purposes. It will be an expression of musical talent, of course, but it will also serve social purposes. It will be a very meaningful way for those participating to relate to each other and to express their commitment and pride in Chicago's gay community.'

The first performance of the Windy City Gay Chorus (WCGC) was at Stages (formerly the Disco Center Stage and now Metro) on Dec. 16, 1979. They performed with the Chicago Gay Pride Band (CGPB).

Among the pieces performed by the CGPB were Rossini's Siege of Corinth overture, Suite Concertante by the contemporary Czech-American composer Vaclav Nelhybel, and 'Grand Serenade' by P.D.Q. Bach. The conductor was Marvin Carlton.

The second half of the show began with '… Don we now.' After only six weeks of rehearsal, the WCGC walked on stage, under the musical directorship of Richard Garrin, and sang a selection of Christmas songs, followed by two movements of Randall Thompson's Testament of Freedom, and Steve Allen's This Could Be the Start of Something Big.

The WCGC were then joined on stage by the CGPB for a medley of Songs For Christmas, before ending with Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever.

At the time of this first performance the CGPB were rehearsing at Touché, and the WCGC at the Wellington Church.

+++

In March 1980, Toddlin' Town Performing Arts Inc. (TTPA) was formed as an umbrella organization to produce concerts for WCGC, CGPB, and the Artemis Singers, though the latter group may have come on board later.

On July 20, 1982, the CGPB, now called the Chicago Gay/Lesbian Community Band, voted to end its relationship with the TTPA. The split was not amicable. Among the unresolved issues were whether the band could use its name after leaving the TTPA. Les Stahl, the band's director, insisted that they were free to leave TTPA on a vote of its members and that it was free to retain the name. An attorney for TTPA said that the band's assets, and its name, remained under the control of TTPA's treasury under its status as a tax-exempt organization.

+++

In the Spring of 1984, a group of musicians announce that they are forming a new gay band in the wake of the recent split within the Chicago Gay/Lesbian Community Band. About 10 former members of the band, led by Dave Rockenbaugh and Tony Scott, broke with band director Les Stahl over purchases, financial record keeping, and decision-making procedures.

+++

In January, 1983, the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus (CGMC), Chicago's second gay chorus, started with about 50 members, a number of whom had left the WCGC, citing 'artistic differences.'

CGMC said they would present lighter and more show-tune-based entertainment.

+++

On April 9-10, 1983, the CGMC presented its Premiere Concert in the auditorium of Lincoln Park High School. Tickets cost $6 in advance and $7 at the door.

+++

The WCGC and the Twin Cities Men's Chorus joined forces April 23, 1983, to perform at the Lane Technical High School Auditorium. This was the second joint concert for the WCGC. The first was with the New York Gay Men's Chorus at New York's Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center in February 1982.

+++

In May 1984, both Chicago gay men's choruses were given honors. The WCGC won first place in the Johnny Mann Great American Choral Festival, and CGMC sang at the World's Fair in New Orleans.

If you have any chorus memories, contact Sukie de la Croix at WCT, 773-871-7610, or sukiedelacroix@ozhasspoken.com


This article shared 3678 times since Wed Feb 12, 2003
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