NYC Gay Men’s Chorus returns, and here’s your chance to sing with them

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New York City Gay Men's Chorus
New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (Photo: Michael R Dekker)

The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC) is gearing up to resume live performances after almost two years away from the stage. The last in-person show the chorus gave was before the March 2020 Covid lockdown.

GayCities can exclusively reveal the guys hope to return to live performance on the first weekend of May 2022. Full details will be coming soon.

In the meantime, it’s looking to recruit new members. The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus is one of the biggest in the country, with around 250 members. Unsurprisingly, after almost two years of inactivity, some of those singers have moved away or dropped out. The organization is now undergoing a recruitment drive.

It holds auditions on January 10th and January 11th, 2022, from 6.30-10:00pm. Singers will need to have a prepared piece ready to sing for the audition and will go over some short exercises with the artistic director. Those auditioning must wear a mask and provide proof of vaccination.

New leadership at the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus

New York City Gay Men's Chorus
(Photo: Matthew Raney)

Big Apple Performing Arts oversees the NYCGMC. In September, it announced a newly elected Board of Directors (11 new members and one second-term member). In the last couple of weeks, it’s also announced the appointment of two interim leaders for the Chorus.

Jared Brayton Bollenbacher is the interim Artistic Director (he previously held the AD position at Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus).

Taking on the interim Executive Director role is John D Carrion.

Carrion was born and raised in Chicago. He relocated aged 18 to New York to study, before spending two years in Paris and then 11 years in London. He joined the London Gay Men’s Chorus in 2011 and served as its chairman from 2013-2017. GayCities jumped on a Zoom call to ask him more about New York City Gay Men’s Chorus’s plans.

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NYCGMC Interim Executive Director, John D Carrion
NYCGMC Interim Executive Director, John D Carrion (Photo: Aled Nurton)

How challenging have the last two years been for the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus?

[John D Carrion] It’s been tough. When you’re a performing arts group, your goal is to perform, right? It’s been tough on the organization in terms of keeping people engaged. It’s been tough on the financial and organizational resources that come with running a company, because you bring in funds from performances. But most of all it’s been tough on individual members not being able to find their own community. Because you can only do so much on Zoom, and if you’re not seeing each other each week in your shared activity I think it can be really difficult to maintain that level of community and engagement.

That said, I think they did a really good job in trying to maintain engagement as best as possible. And our members really started to look out for each other in different ways. So while it’s been difficult, it’s also brought members together in other ways.

How many people are you looking to recruit?

JDC: We’re looking to recruit around 50 new members, give or take. We want to keep [our membership number] in the 250-300 range.

What sort of commitment do chorus members need to show?

JDC: There’s a weekly rehearsal every Monday from 7-10pm, and one weekend rehearsal a month, which is 6-7 hours. There’s also an annual retreat which we hope everyone can be a part of in some way, and that’s over a whole weekend. So it’s a big commitment. We try to be upfront about that because the level of performance we try to put together requires that level of commitment and rehearsal because our main comparison points are Broadway shows, so we need to be at that level to remain viable and maintain credibility.

What sort of skill level do singers need?

JDC: You need to be able to carry a tune. That’s the basic level. It’s an auditioned chorus, so we ask them to sing a song and work on some scales. We’re not looking for Broadway performers, although some of our members have performed on Broadway. Others are more casual singers, and that’s fine too. We don’t want this to be an elite organization, but to maintain a certain level of performance, we do need people to hold a tune. I think that’s the best way of putting it.

Can you tell us more about the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus return to the stage?

JDC: Our plan is to perform the first weekend in May, but it’s not set in stone. That’s presuming the venues stay open and our members stay healthy. We are also looking to do smaller performances around New York City in late winter and early spring, to help get back in the community, because it’s not all about the big performances. One of the things we’re looking forward to doing is getting out of Manhattan and getting to the outer boroughs. That’s a really important part of our strategy, working with different members of the community, working with the BIPOC members of both the chorus and New York City.

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New York City Gay Men's Chorus
(Photo: Matthew Raney)

What do you think people get out of being a member of LGBTQ choruses?

JDC: Singing itself is a cathartic experience. If you’ve come from a long day’s work, or whatever your personal problems or issues may be, you can come and sing on a Monday night for three hours and know that you are with like-minded people.

You can really release those emotions in different ways because sometimes we sing really happy, energetic songs, and sometimes we sing quite emotional songs. I think that together creates this atmosphere of catharsis. That said, lots of studies show the act of singing—the breathing exercises, the synchronization—helps to calm the mind and body. There are health benefits to doing it.

Then there’s the community aspect. These are people who end up becoming quite close friends. You’ll see them at each other’s birthdays and parties. They live together, they go on holidays together, they get married, all sorts of things. Even my own partner, I found in the LGMC. So these are the types of organizations that really create bonds of all types that I think make a difference to an LGBT person who is looking for community.

If you’re interested in auditioning, sign up at nycgmc.org/audition.