By Danae Barnes, October 2015 Issue.
The Grand Canyon Performing Arts
The Grand Canyon Performing Arts is an umbrella arts organization for four choral groups: Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus, Canyon Echoes, Harmonic Vibrations and the Omaggio youth chorus.
In its 25th year, the overall mission remains to “unite, inspire, educate and entertain.”
With a majority of choral members from the LGBT community, the choruses emphasize community involvement. For example, the Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus plans to volunteer “25 acts of kindness” this year as part of its 25th anniversary celebration and observation.
“Music and the performing arts opens up a dialogue where walls can come down,” said Marc Gaston, The Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus artistic director. “The message is easier to receive – it is amazing to see the healing that has taken place within families. Or, if it doesn’t, we provide a safe environment where people can be authentic, participate in something healthy and fun.”
The Phoenix Metropolitan Men’s Chorus is the largest of the groups, the 100-member ensemble incorporates a full orchestra and musical accompaniment to accommodate its wide-ranging musical offerings.
This year’s winter season theme is “Silver Bells, 25 years of Holiday Celebration,” and the show will highlight the best concerts from over the years.
“We are a serious musical group, but we want our audience to have fun,” Gaston said.
In addition to the regular season, the main ensemble auditions for two smaller vocal groups. Canyon Echoes, a 16- to 20-member ensemble serves as “choral ambassadors,” performing at smaller venues or private shows. The 6-member Harmonic Vibrations “primarily focuses on comedy.”
Grand Canyon Performing Arts serves as artistic home for the Omaggio youth chorus, one of 9 queer youth choral groups in the nation. The multidisciplinary musical performances allow Omaggio singers to “express their life experience and identify who they are ... giving them a safe environment to use performing arts for self-esteem.”
For additional information, including audition opportunities, visit phoenixmenschorus.org/grand-canyon-performing-arts.
Orpheus Male Chorus
The Orpheus Male Chorus of Phoenix is the oldest continually performing chorus in Arizona. Under the guidance of Brook Larson, hired in 2009 as the Artistic Director, the group has seen a revitalization of both ensemble size and musical offerings.
“Our goal is to both a high quality music output and a community focus,” Larson said.
With approximately 90 members in 2015, the Orpheus Male Chorus has tripled in size over the last 6 years. “We have a goal of expanding to as many as 160 members in ten years- ambitious, but I’m sure we are headed in that direction.”
The ensemble performs in area churches to accommodate the large group while providing a resonant sound for the audience. Artistically, Larson emphasizes musical accomplishment as well as social impact. “We want to be accessible, entertaining and touching; to create an experience for the audience, whether it is tears, laughter or joy, we want them to have a good experience.”
On November 7, the chorus hosts Boys to Men, promoting access to choral training and development for young male singers. The winter theme is “Holidays with Orpheus” with four separate holiday concerts. Each season has an artistic theme, and the spring season “From Pasadena to Broadway” celebrates an invitation to attend the 2016 American Choral Directors Association Conference in Pasadena.
As a community chorus, the Orpheus Male Chorus is also involved with outreach and social works, such as volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, packing food for children, and other social programs. “Our members are like family... and we participate as a group in programs that demonstrate human values. “ says Larson.
The Orpheus Male Chorus welcomes interested community members to attend rehearsals: “People are welcome to come and to audition [with] us!” The next round of auditions for Orpheus Men’s Chorus is Jan. 5 and 12, at the Central United Methodist Church.
For additional information, including audition opportunities, visit orpheus.org.
Phoenix Women’s Chorus
Many people speak of diversity, but the Phoenix Women’s Chorus goes one step further and sings it!
The 50-member group chooses a variety of music from different sources, “traditional, contemporary, and classical styles, as well as several commissioned pieces,” according to their website.
As members of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choirs (GALA), the women’s chorus is dedicated to “enhancing lesbian visibility, [and] celebrating the contributions of women in music.”
Their musical selections also represent the artistic view of their new director, Livia Gho.
“I want to bring an international perspective, the different and current musical trends around the world, connecting choir to that community – that’s the strength that I bring.” Gho said, adding that the chorus is “made out of women who just love singing together, and support social justice issues ... everyone just loves being at rehearsal- everyone loves to participate in the entire process.”
This year the chorus is introducing a “price-less” ticket for their concert season. In lieu of traditional pricing, Gho said the “audience can pay for the musical experience, and also donate at the concert. We want to extend our programming to those who cannot otherwise afford it, and also invite new audience members.”
Their artistic season includes four shows: two holiday shows on Nov 21 and 22 at the their new home in the Church of the Beatitudes, and two spring offerings in May.
The chorus can also be spotted participating in such LGBT and local events as the Festival of the Arts, Pride Parades, Rainbows Festivals and World AIDS Day. The chorus has also been invited to participate again this year in the GALA festival in Denver in July 2016, a tradition for the group since 2000.
For additional information, including audition opportunities, visit phoenixwomenschorus.org.
Voices of the Desert
As the only mixed choir in Phoenix, Voices of the Desert performances present audiences with a combination of dancing, singing, costuming and, yes, puppets.
“We think of ourselves as an adult Glee show choir. Lots of staging, dancing, costumes,” said Keith Clark, Voices of the Desert artistic director. “We like to do fun music, but we will also have some serious ballads. We give fun, energetic music that keeps the audience entertained.”
Housed at the Phoenix Center for the Arts, the 35-member chorus aims to “serve as goodwill ambassadors for all sexual orientations through musical performance,” according to the choir’s website.
“Part of our mission is to help performers grow,” Clark said. “Why not try choreography, or dance, or something theatrical? People come with a fear of getting rejected, and we have tons of stories of people breaking out of their shell, and we watch them blossom.”
According to Chris Craig, Voices of the Desert marketing director, the chorus’ season includes “approximately three shows a year, with smaller performances, about one to two shows a month, in addition to fundraisers.”
In addition to this season’s trio of concerts, Voices of the Desert will perform as part of Rainbows Festival and World Aids Day events (to name a few).
For additional information, including audition opportunities, visit voicesofthedesert.org.