people, especially being straight and not wanting to offend, but as I've gotten more comfortable with everyone I found that some good-natured jokes don't make others see me as insensitive or bigoted. His fondest Chorus experience was getting to ham it up as a hammer swinger in the Anvil Chorus in our Spring 2012 concert. When asked what question we should have asked for the purpose of this article, Zak offers: Would you invite a straight friend to join the chorus with you? (I would). My family loved [that I joined] and has come to every show. My friends ask for my insights into the gay community, and my girlfriend tries to get all her friends to join me. I resist labeling. If you must use a description, perhaps "human being." I don't believe most types or labels do justice to describing the fullness and complexity of who we are. Though I do think that the button "straight, not narrow" is cute for people who might not normally identify themselves as "gay". Bill joined the Chorus in January of 2013. A longtime member of another choral group, he decided to audition after seeing us perform: [I] had attended several BGMC concerts over the past few years; admired the sound, repertoire, quality and spirit of the BGMC; wholeheartedly support the efforts to spread tolerance and acceptance for LGBT folks; and felt I would really enjoy being a part of the BGMC (which I do!). Also, I sing with another men’s chorus which may be ending its time due to the advanced age and physical condition of its long time director, wanted to continue singing, and believed the BGMC would be an ideal chorus for me. ▼ The newest singer who spoke with us is Bill Wachob, a retired senior assistant dean. He dislikes categorization:
few friends. In some ways it feels like I've gained a whole extended family.
Kuntz family has also been supportive:
For a relatively new member, Bill has already collected many favorite moments: Prior to joining: meeting and talking with Randy in the liquor store where I occasionally shop and recognized him from the 2012 Holiday concert. Subsequent to joining: the New Member welcome pot luck at Travis's home; the picnic at Pierre's; singing with Ralph and Len (new member as well); having lunch at Andy's with Andy and Travis; meeting BGMC members and getting to know them (too many to mention here) at various events including car pooling to the Rochester concert; the list of Ciaran quotes read at the annual picnic at Pierre's; and the learning I get from Ciaran at practically every rehearsal. When founding member Roger Parris was asked for his thoughts about non-gay men in a gay chorus, he wrote: It’s amazing to see how far the minds and hearts of Americans have changed since we started singing in 2001. Our chorus has attracted so many open-hearted, open- minded men of all ages. It makes me happy to know that so many bisexual and straight men have joined the BGMC. Younger and older singing men of all orientations have stayed with the Chorus -- and we proudly hold on to our Chorus’ name. It speaks well of the appeal of our group and of the quality of its male and female leaders. This diversity says a lot about the importance of men’s friendships and about the value of working together in a singing community. The BGMC has earned many awards and honors, but its quietest, most ground-breaking achievement may well be the committed brotherhood of gay and straight men who have discovered that they have nothing to fear from each other. ▼
One of my sisters has been to nearly all our major concerts. The other sister has twice travelled from northwest Michigan to attend our concerts. My niece was in our audience at GALA 2012.
Today, Vince is just one of the guys.
I’m no longer known as ‘the straight guy.’ It is now normal for any man who isn’t afraid of being perceived as gay to sing in the Chorus.
Brian Rotach [B2], a clergyman, has been with the Chorus for 8 years. He joined for the love of singing. He reports: Because I can rarely go out after rehearsals getting to know the guys has been a very slow process. Also, accepting guys' decisions to leave the chorus has been difficult and painful. Singing with us is an emotional experience, regardless of your orientation. Brian says: Performances of treasured songs have had me in tears many times. Notes to me when I miss a rehearsal and a sincere welcome back when I return have touched me. The guys are so much more emotionally open than other men I've worked with through the years. Joining the Chorus was a non- issue for Brian’s family and friends:
No one who knows me well, including my church, has been surprised or judgmental.
Beginning his 3 rd year with us, Zak Kineke [B1], a television news producer, joined because he missed singing after graduating from college. He learned about the Chorus from a news story at work. Zak was pleasantly surprised to discover: How accepted I was like a member of the family, especially in a space where I could very well be seen as an outsider . I was never quite sure what's OK to joke about with
He found a welcoming place:
Nothing was very difficult. I tend to be shy in groups until I get to know people; but numerous BGMC members have been so warm and forthcoming that it wasn't long before I felt very comfortable and am making quite a
Cynthia Van Ness has been a chorus groupie since 2001.
51 Colonial Circle ■ Buffalo, NY 14222 ■ 716-883-1277 ■ www.buffalogaymenschorus.org ■ Page 2
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