a choral community | OUTVisions for LGBT Professionals

a choral community

lorne gretsinger's love of music

a choral community
pieter van hiel

Song and music have always been essential parts of Lorne Gretsinger’s life. The Beamsville, Ontario resident has been active in professional and amateur choirs for many years, and active in their direction for almost as long. He sings for the sheer joy of singing,and for the balance and fulfillment that it brings to his life as a busy school principal.

"I have a love of singing. I’ve always sung in church choirs, and community choirs throughout my teens and throughout university. I’ve taught music. This is something I do for personal balance and personal fulfillment,” Gretsinger said.

As an adult, Gretsinger’s love of choral music led him to seek out gay and lesbian choruses. The first such choruses started in New York City and San Francisco in the 1980s, as a sort of communal response to the growing AIDS crisis. The groups provide a social network as well as entertainment for the larger community, often in support of charitable causes. Gay and lesbian choirs can also be uniquely effective means of connection to the straight community, through the universal language of music. Gretsinger was active with a number of these choirs through the years.

“I’ve had the opportunity to go to international gay and lesbian choral festivals which can be pretty fulfilling,” he said. “I have sung with a number of groups throughout the years. There’s a mixed lesbian and gay chorus in Guelph, and I sang in Toronto in a gay mens’ chorus for six or seven years, and then went to Buffalo and sang for eight years.”

As a Niagara resident, Gretsinger hoped for something closer to home, a choral group that could connect the region’s gay population. He tried to make these hopes a reality more than once, but his plans were frustrated by the size the region and relatively low density of the population. At the same time, Toronto and Buffalo had active choirs already. Gretsinger wondered if there was room for another group on the QEW corridor.

“The attempts in St. Catharines and Niagara got interest, but never achieved critical mass,” he said. “With 13 communities, a population so diverse and separated, how do we get people from Port Colborne involved in something in St. Catharines? That’s the challenge of Niagara.”

About this time Gretsinger’s best friend moved to Hamilton. The industrial city of 520,000 seemed like it might be a good location for a new chorus, one that could serve both the residents of Hamilton and nearby Niagara. Gretsinger and his friend Michael Wilmot decided to start a chorus in the city, and the Hamilton Gay Mens’ Chorus was born. By the time of their first concert in December 2012, they had 16 men.

The Christmas-themed concert was hosted at the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, which also serves as home for the choir. The concert was a sold-out event, and the choir’s first season was a complete success. The success has attracted more voices to the chorus.

“We had 16 singers at (the first concert), and 20 singers in June 2013. We have eight more signed up for August as we get this new season going,” said Gretsinger.

The success of the choir has also inspired them to bring their talents further afield. In May 2014, the group will be the first ever Hamilton representatives at the Unison Festival in Ottawa. They will also expand their performance schedule, with an AIDS vigil, matinee concerts and more. Gretsinger said that, while, he is co-founder of the chorus, it is much larger than any individuals.

“It is a community organization. It’s not my chorus any more,” he said.

Though it is billed as the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus, the group encompasses much more than what the name suggests. It is open to men from surrounding communities, and accepts anyone who identifies as male. And, it is open to straight men who embrace the goals of the choir. Gretsinger said there were as many reasons to join the chorus as there are men in it. Paul Hawkins, a member of the choir, said the individual motivations come together in the service of a single goal, like the constituent voices of the chorus itself unifying in song.

“As a professional singer, I sincerely believe in the mission of the organization of bringing men together through music. There are enough issues and differences that divide us in this world. It is truly wonderful when we can find ways of coming together to create something beautiful,” he said. “Being a member of the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus is more than just about performing technically good music, it is about building strong healthy relationships with other men who are all at various stages in their own lives.”

The Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus opens its second season with a performance on Sept. 22 at the AIDS Walk for Life in Hamilton. On Nov. 20, they are singing at a joint event with Hamilton Theatre Inc., and start their holiday concerts on Nov. 30 at the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton. While the repertoire varies to suit the mood and theme of the performance, Gretsinger said concert-goers can expect a wide range of music.

“They can expect to entertained on a wide variety of levels. We do do some gay camp, but we’re trying to deliver a balanced menu. We want choral excellence and musical community first, and close second is entertainment value,” he said. “We’ve done it all.”

For more information about the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus, or to purchase tickets, visit http://hamiltongmc.wordpress.com

Song and music have always been essential parts of Lorne Gretsinger’s life. The Beamsville, Ontario resident has been active in professional and amateur choirs for many years, and active in their direction for almost as long. He sings for the sheer joy of singing,and for the balance and fulfillment that it brings to his life as a busy school principal.

"I have a love of singing. I’ve always sung in church choirs, and community choirs throughout my teens and throughout university. I’ve taught music. This is something I do for personal balance and personal fulfillment,” Gretsinger said.

As an adult, Gretsinger’s love of choral music led him to seek out gay and lesbian choruses. The first such choruses started in New York City and San Francisco in the 1980s, as a sort of communal response to the growing AIDS crisis. The groups provide a social network as well as entertainment for the larger community, often in support of charitable causes. Gay and lesbian choirs can also be uniquely effective means of connection to the straight community, through the universal language of music. Gretsinger was active with a number of these choirs through the years.

“I’ve had the opportunity to go to international gay and lesbian choral festivals which can be pretty fulfilling,” he said. “I have sung with a number of groups throughout the years. There’s a mixed lesbian and gay chorus in Guelph, and I sang in Toronto in a gay mens’ chorus for six or seven years, and then went to Buffalo and sang for eight years.”

As a Niagara resident, Gretsinger hoped for something closer to home, a choral group that could connect the region’s gay population. He tried to make these hopes a reality more than once, but his plans were frustrated by the size the region and relatively low density of the population. At the same time, Toronto and Buffalo had active choirs already. Gretsinger wondered if there was room for another group on the QEW corridor.

“The attempts in St. Catharines and Niagara got interest, but never achieved critical mass,” he said. “With 13 communities, a population so diverse and separated, how do we get people from Port Colborne involved in something in St. Catharines? That’s the challenge of Niagara.”

About this time Gretsinger’s best friend moved to Hamilton. The industrial city of 520,000 seemed like it might be a good location for a new chorus, one that could serve both the residents of Hamilton and nearby Niagara. Gretsinger and his friend Michael Wilmot decided to start a chorus in the city, and the Hamilton Gay Mens’ Chorus was born. By the time of their first concert in December 2012, they had 16 men.

The Christmas-themed concert was hosted at the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton, which also serves as home for the choir. The concert was a sold-out event, and the choir’s first season was a complete success. The success has attracted more voices to the chorus.

“We had 16 singers at (the first concert), and 20 singers in June 2013. We have eight more signed up for August as we get this new season going,” said Gretsinger.

The success of the choir has also inspired them to bring their talents further afield. In May 2014, the group will be the first ever Hamilton representatives at the Unison Festival in Ottawa. They will also expand their performance schedule, with an AIDS vigil, matinee concerts and more. Gretsinger said that, while, he is co-founder of the chorus, it is much larger than any individuals.

“It is a community organization. It’s not my chorus any more,” he said.

Though it is billed as the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus, the group encompasses much more than what the name suggests. It is open to men from surrounding communities, and accepts anyone who identifies as male. And, it is open to straight men who embrace the goals of the choir. Gretsinger said there were as many reasons to join the chorus as there are men in it. Paul Hawkins, a member of the choir, said the individual motivations come together in the service of a single goal, like the constituent voices of the chorus itself unifying in song.

“As a professional singer, I sincerely believe in the mission of the organization of bringing men together through music. There are enough issues and differences that divide us in this world. It is truly wonderful when we can find ways of coming together to create something beautiful,” he said. “Being a member of the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus is more than just about performing technically good music, it is about building strong healthy relationships with other men who are all at various stages in their own lives.”

The Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus opens its second season with a performance on Sept. 22 at the AIDS Walk for Life in Hamilton. On Nov. 20, they are singing at a joint event with Hamilton Theatre Inc., and start their holiday concerts on Nov. 30 at the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton. While the repertoire varies to suit the mood and theme of the performance, Gretsinger said concert-goers can expect a wide range of music.

“They can expect to entertained on a wide variety of levels. We do do some gay camp, but we’re trying to deliver a balanced menu. We want choral excellence and musical community first, and close second is entertainment value,” he said. “We’ve done it all.”

For more information about the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus, or to purchase tickets, visit http://hamiltongmc.wordpress.com




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Authorpieter van hiel

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