NEW YORK CITY GAY MEN’S CHORUS
Below, you’ll see New York City Gay Men’s Chorus singing in Times Square under my direction for the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in June 2019, performing part of our commission, Quiet No More. This is "What if Truth is All We Have" Music and lyrics by Ann Hampton Callaway. Soloist, Topher Nuccio. (used with permission).
I was lucky enough to be conductor of New York City Gay Men’s Chorus from 2007 to 2019. I was also Artistic Director of Big Apple Performing Arts, the organization that oversees them, along with our sister ensemble, Youth Pride Chorus.
NYCGMC is a world-class, world-renowned New York institution and a pioneering voice for the LGBTQ community, comprised of just over 300 talented singers of various ages, backgrounds, and experiences. NYCGMC produce a vibrant sound and energy that audiences can feel and connect with. Through the technical quality and sheer power of this sound, and our spectacular performances, NYCGMC are fearless champions for love, equality, and acceptance. As you can see from the pictures, my singers enjoy themselves and put the music in their bodies. We sang in a very wide variety of settings, and always seemed to succeed in moving people, and raising the roof!
My NYCGMC work took me to all kinds of contexts and venues, large and small, to conduct, teach and speak. Here are images of me working for Big Apple Performing Arts in various capacities:
at AIDS WALK NYC conducting outside, which was always beautiful;
conducting the chorus at the 100th Anniversary of the Drama League of New York;
with a few of our crazy Youth Pride Chorus Alumni;
interviewing Martha Wash on stage about singing 'Its Raining Men' in New York clubs in the '70s;
playing cabaret piano in rehearsal for Carolee Carmello, another of our Broadway guest stars;
conducting a small but enthusiastic group at our annual September Singathon in Jackson Square Park in New York City.
As Artistic Director, I conducted the main chorus in three main shows a year. These included a Holiday show in December, a 'Big Gay Sing' singalong show in March and a June show that raises awareness of LGBTQ issues. In recent years, these more compelling and innovative shows covered crystal meth addiction, living with HIV, and the joys and sorrows of growing up and living life as an LGBTQ US citizen. In June 2014, we also hosted all of New York City's LGBTQ choruses at a choral celebration at the Cathedral of St John the Divine.
Since 2007, NYCGMC worked under my direction with artists of many styles. Our pop music work allowed us to reach the widest audience. Most recently, this included a 2017 stadium gig appearance with Demi Lovato, a 2014 Pride appearance singing 'Chandelier' with Sia and a 2013 dance music show featuring soul diva Martha Wash. We also had an on-going relationship with transgender singer-songwriter Our Lady J. and Idol runner-up Frenchie Davis.
In New York, musical theater is an important way to connect with local audiences and other gay men. NYCGMC regularly works with many of Broadway's top vocal talents, and I had the privilege of performing with Kelli O’Hara (South Pacific), Victoria Clark (A Light in the Piazza), Carolee Carmello (Scandalous, Parade), Chris Sieber (La Cage aux Folles, Spamalot), Fredi Walker-Browne (Rent) and Ann Harada (Avenue Q). I am always keen to promote choral singing in many different styles, and NYCGMC also worked with gospel and soul singers Lillias White and Michael McElroy (Broadway Inspirational Voices).
I am also proud of our Connect program work, a series of smaller projects which aimed to engage with all corners of New York City. In recent years, two of NYCGMC's most exciting Connect program activities were our 'SAGE Singalongs', singalongs at centers for older LGBTQ citizens, and our pioneering work with Diaspora Community Services. Here, we did what I call 'singing interventions' with women of color in Church Avenue, Brooklyn, where we combined singing songs they knew with small group discussion of feelings and issues around living with HIV. We sang with them, they sang with us, and we all learnt about HIV together. NYCGMC small groups also regularly sing at gay and straight weddings in the city and at political events, including the 2012 Annual State of the Borough Address by Scott Stringer, Borough President of Manhattan.
GALA, VARIOUS VOICES AND THE WIDER CHORAL MOVEMENT
I have also worked extensively over the years within the wider world of the gay choral movement. I am current Board Vice President of GALA Choruses (The Association of Gay and Lesbian Choruses) in the US and have also been deeply involved with Various Voices in Europe, including:
a clinic on directing swing and jazz (GALA retreat, Montreal, January 2004)
a vocal workshop to over 100 GALA chorus members (Montreal festival, July 2004)
directing a combined UK/US chorus of 300 (consisting of LGMC members and members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and Heartlands Men’s Chorus) in ‘Come What May’, one of his own arrangements which closed the GMCW show (July 2004)
Artistic Director of the London Euro-pride Festival Concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (June 2006)
a first NYCGMC program at GALA festival, including Strayhorn and Ellington’s ‘Take the A train’, Handel’s Zadok the Priest, and a set by singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright (July 2008)
Co-Artistic Director of the largest ever 3000 singer Various Voices Festival at the South Bank Center (May 2009)
A simulation/workshop for Artistic Directors entitled 'Programming concerts in Challenging times' (September 2010)
An all-GALA 'Big Gay Sing' to an audience of 5000 singers, involving choruses from across America (July 2012)
An interactive workshop for Artistic Directors entitled: 'Mission-based Programming' (October 2013)
LONDON GAY MEN’S CHORUS 2002-2007
in what now seems like a previous life (I look so young in that Sydney picture below!), I was also Musical Director and conductor of the London Gay Men’s Chorus from 2002-2007. Under my leadership, the chorus grew from 120 to around 220 members. LGMC became the largest gay choir in Europe, on a par with the larger US LGBT choruses, increasing in size, musical excellence, fundraising need and both community and outreach ambition. They also performed to sell-out audiences in the top international venues in London every year, including the Queen Elizabeth Hall (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006) and Barbican Hall (2004, 2005, 2006).
LGMC regularly worked internationally too - Sydney Opera House (2002), Kennedy Centre (2004), and Settembre Musica, Turin (2006). They were increasingly booked by the UK’s top promoters (Raymond Gubbay, Gordon Poole) and developed a deserved reputation for artistic innovation, vocal excellence and commercial success not only in the gay community but also in the highly competitive artistic community of London.