In 1992, a group of men and women got together to start Toronto’s first gay and lesbian chorus. Their founding artistic director was John Schrag, and their first concert, on Valentine’s Day, 1993, was called “Sex & Chocolate”. Clearly, cheeky, and tongue-in-cheeky, were going to be part of this new choir’s style.
The world was a different place twenty years ago. Basic gay rights in Ontario had only been passed through provincial parliament in 1986. AIDS had killed thousands, with no good treatment in sight. Coming out could still shock people. Standing on stage and singing as a gay and lesbian choir was an act of defiance, and an opportunity to put a very different face on the community than that seen on the news.
Through 25 years of change, Singing OUT has been there, protesting, entertaining, celebrating, educating, and changing hearts through music. We’ve shown how very different kinds of people can work together to make something wonderful happen, starting by learning to manage a little harmony.
To celebrate our 25th, we asked members, alumni, friends, and fans to tell us some of their stories. Here are just a few:
“It was a completely different way of fighting the culture war, by reaching out rather than striking back. And it was a place I knew I could make a difference.”
“The most challenging moment as a member of the choir came when, in my first year, I had to sing a song entitled: “I Like Being A Dyke.” I could hardly say the word “dyke” in conversation! To sing it proudly and become comfortable with the word was a definite challenge!”
“I have made so many amazing friends in choir, and I love to see them each week. I know that no matter how I am feeling when I walk through the door of rehearsal, I will always leave feeling uplifted and inspired.”
“It is a powerful and amazing force with all these voices working towards one purpose and one song.”
“Singing in front of my family as an out and proud gay man is an incredible feeling.”
“I felt it was time to become more connected with the LGBTQ community. Singing is just what I need. I feel part of the community by making music, which for me is a healing and a creative outlet.”