Big moments: Gay chorus reflects on 30 years

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imageAs Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus readies for Sunday’s sold-out Encore gala with Jennifer Holliday celebrating its 30th season, we ask members to share their favorite moments in a long history with a greater purpose.

They don’t hold back, and we appreciate it. Devoted fans will too.

Since the Encore reception is sold out, we don’t want to tease those of you without tickets too much. So instead, we thought it might be nice to remind you that the 30th season of AGMC concerts is not just a milestone, but a tradition and a passion for its members that you can still enjoy. Tickets are available online now to their beloved holiday concert and the whole season.

And who better to show you that their hearts are in it than the singers themselves. Here are a few reflections from current AGMC members with poignant, funny and moving chorus memories they’ll never forget, including a video at the end that we bet you haven’t seen.

Lost loves, friends
“My most memorable moment happened earlier this year when I was browsing the AIDS quilt online and saw all the panels memorializing fallen brothers of the AGMC. Since joining the chorus with my partner, Jim, in 2005, I’ve heard countless stories of chorus members who lost their battles against AIDS. Seeing the panels made it all come real as I realized what this brotherhood lived through and how they must have leaned on each other to get through the horrors of the epidemic. Let us never forget.”
–Darrell Card

Lenox Square Concert, 1985
“My first memorable moment singing with the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus was December 1985 when we sang at Lenox Square, under the direction of the late Neil Gregory, during the Christmas holiday season. The crowd was extremely receptive, and I felt proud to be a part of these talented men representing the gay community in such a positive way.”
–Neil Keener

Paris, France 1998 and “Georgia on my Mind” tour, 2010
“Two of my most memorable moments with AGMC are the trip we took to Paris–for the obvious reasons–in 1998, and the Georgia tour we did in March 2010. In both cases, the high points were being able to share our music and vision of inclusiveness with people who might never have heard us, and the camaraderie that resulted from sharing these moments with our fellow chorus members.”
–Ron Jones

Christmas Concert, 2001
“Here I was in a traditional Christian environment at Christmas enjoying beautiful music both secular and religious, classical and modern, being performed by doctors and lawyers and teachers and gay men from many other walks of life—very respectable and admirable men and members of the community.

…The concert validated for me that I was in fact a very good person and part of a group of very good people. What a wonderful Christmas gift this turned out to be… When the Chorus sang the two-choir “Ave Maria” antiphonally from the front and back of the Church, I cried. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life and became one of the biggest highlights of my holiday.

Six years ago, my friend in the chorus finally got tired of me saying that I would give my eye teeth to be a part of such a talented group with such an important mission and purpose. He told me I should audition… I will be singing my sixth Christmas concert this season, and even though it is a much different experience when you are performing, this concert remains one of the biggest highlights of my holiday season.”
–Freddy Clements

Atlanta Braves game, 2002
“The AGMC sang the national anthem at an Atlanta Braves home game against the Houston Expos at Turner Field on June 5, 2002. It was only the one song, but we represented the entire city—not just the GLBT community—in front of thousands of people, our largest live audience ever. The applause was thunderous, and it was my proudest moment ever as a member of the AGMC.”
–Eric L. Watts

Holiday concert, 2002
“After years of being a self-proclaimed bitter/guarded/jaded queen, eight years ago this December, I went to the AGMC Holiday Concert at St. Phillips Cathedral and found my emotions. As I sat in that glorious place, I heard what my heart had been yearning for – song. My heart welled up, and I wept softly as I sat by myself amidst the crowded sanctuary.

The following January, I auditioned for the Chorus and was accepted into the welcoming and loving arms of my Chorus brethren. I have found that I can again experience all of those wonderful emotions that I had packed away so long ago — all of those which I had convinced myself I couldn’t afford to keep if I were to remain sane in this crazy and lonely world. I’ve found my love and emotions and song.”
–Brian Rinehart

Christmas concert, 2004
“I was part of the bell choir that performed with the chorus that season. I was blown away with their professionalism and artistry. That concert convinced me to audition.”
Jim Harper

All choked up, 2005
“This was my second or third rehearsal with the AGMC. We start singing “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen, and I choke with emotion and cannot sing for several minutes. The power and beauty of the song and the friendly voices instantly brings back all my precious college choir memories from the 1980s, and I realize I had never lost my faith, regardless of the hurtful things my parents had told me since I had come out in 2000.”
–Scott Marler

Second chances audition, 2006
“I was totally excited, very prepared with my audition piece, and lo and behold, the day before my scheduled audition, I get complete laryngitis. I was croaking like a toad. I was so upset and disappointed thinking I wouldn’t be able to join the chorus. So, I go in anyway with a boom box and a CD of me singing a solo piece from another chorus I used to sing with in West Hollywood–and the rest is history! I was accepted and allowed to come to the first rehearsal, provided I-re-auditioned once I regained my voice. The Chorus has been a great source of joy and inspiration in my life, and I am thankful to Jeffrey McIntyre, who was the Interim Artistic Director of the chorus at the time, for having the foresight to let me join without actually hearing my voice!”
–Mark Toomajian

GALA Convention in Miami, 2008
“Hundreds of GLBT choruses and ensembles are performing for each other all week. When we finish our program, the audience (composed of other chorus members) explodes with jubilant applause and cheers.”
–Scott Marler

A memory-making 2010 season
“Our performance of “Shaken, Not Heard” in Savannah, Ga [March, 2010] was one of those magic moments where everyone involved was totally engaged. The material was not only speaking to the audience, but the audience was giving it all back to the chorus, ten fold. After the last note of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been,’ the audience erupted with one of the most amazing ovations I have ever experienced.”
–Christopher Repotski

“We’re singing in Savannah, Ga., as part of our first-ever Georgia Tour. As we start singing ‘Over the Rainbow,’ two trim, unassuming elderly men very discreetly slip their hands together in their seats and glance over at each other with all the love in the world and tears in their eyes. I sense I’ve just begun to experience the power of our narrative and healing strength in our wildly successful concert that day.”
–Scott Marler

“My favorite moment in my short but memorable time with the AGMC was singing to the staff at [Paula Deen’s] Lady and Sons Restaurant in Savannah in early April 2010 while on tour. We had already given a fantastic concert earlier in the day, so this moment was just the icing on the day.” (View the clip below.)
–Paul Foley

Are you or have you been a member of Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus? Been a longtime fan? Share your favorite AGMC moment in our comments section. Be sure to tell us when it was and why it sticks with you. Photo by Sher Pruitt. Video courtesy AGMC.


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