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  • Yohei Sakai

Why Gay Men's Chorus?

Our first rehearsal of the third season is coming soon. Before going into another busy year with my choir family, I have been reflecting on what we do. That’s why I thought it would be nice to write some of my thoughts down.


SJGMC singing with VMC, directed by Yohei

The queer choral movement started as a reaction and protest to the oppressive and unfair society towards the LGBTQ community in the '70s and '80s. We owe so much to our pioneers: the Stonewall Chorale and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, for example (SFGMC later inspired so many others to start their own gay men's chorus, including Vancouver Men's Chorus, Canada's oldest gay men's chorus who has been our friend and mentor since our beginning). Queer choirs became a refuge, safe space, and chosen family for many people. Choirs gave people strength during hard times, including the AIDS epidemic in the '80s and early '90s.



I think this core value of the LGBTQ choirs has never changed to the day. During this year's St. John's Pride Week, a few members said that the choir has been an accepting space where they can be who they are. Another member said he was emotional when we performed "Born This Way" at the flag-raising ceremony before the parade. Everyone wore what they wanted and some people were in dress or drag in that performance. It was a symbolic act of self-respect through singing, which I personally felt emotional as well. It was our cry to the world saying, "We love being who we are, so should you".


2019 St. John's Pride Parade Flag Raising

At the end of the day, it is a statement that we need to keep making. Many people think we are equally treated now, but that is simply not true. Many of us still feel nervous to hold hands with same-sex partners in public. Many people say that kids shouldn't know about (homo)sexuality, but they praise and love when a 5-year-old boy likes a girl. Many people have "opinion" about same-sex marriage. We still have to "come out (from what??? What closet??)". LGBTQ Youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (egale.ca).


I have seen many people saying things such as: “Why does everything have to be LGBTQ related?” “Why do you always have to show off who you are?” “Just be quiet and have your own life”, and so on and on... I want those people to think about what I have just written above. Do you experience all these for being straight? Do you really think we are treated equally when people question our rights just for being queer?


Music is a powerful tool. We can convey so many things through a performance without arguing anything. Whether you like it or not, GBT+ men and allies coming together and singing together is a social statement. It is a way to make us visible and make “our voices” heard.


Having said all of that, we simply enjoy making music together in the weekly rehearsals. We love singing and we love knowing each other. It is always great to connect with people from different places and generations. We work hard because we strive to do our best in each performance. We love connecting with other queer choirs in Canada and abroad.


We are not perfect. I am so far away from being perfect (as a director, person, whatever it is). Of course, we sometimes have issues too. But it is good that we have a place where we can accept that. We just have to try our best. Nobody is perfect and that’s how it should be.


I hope it has been an encouraging read. Because, you know, in the end, I am writing this to convince you to join my choir…


Bests,


Yohei

Artistic Director


- Come to the first rehearsal (open rehearsal) on Thursday, Sep 12, 7:00 pm at the St. James United Church (330 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's)


- Our first performance in the season is Mysterious Barricade St. John's Concert, Friday, Sep 13, 7:30 pm at D.F. Cook recital hall. https://www.mysteriousbarricades.org/st-johns




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© 2019 by St. John's Gay Men's Chorus

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