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Gay Men's Chorus to perform its first concert in Bemidji

"Ole', Ole', Ole, The Rhythm is Gonna Getcha" will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 19, in Thompson Recital Hall of the Bangsberg Fine and Performing Arts complex on the campus of Bemidji State University. Submitted Photo

In St. Paul, the audiences for the hometown Gay Men's Chorus are extremely responsive because they know that at every concert they are going to have a good time. This year, music from the Latino community will be featured.

"Ole', Ole', Ole, The Rhythm is Gonna Getcha" will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 19, in Thompson Recital Hall of the Bangsberg Fine and Performing Arts complex on the campus of Bemidji State University, located at 14th Northeast Street and Birchmont Drive Northeast. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children/students with valid identification. They may be purchased now at Harmony Foods Co-op, 117 Third St. N.W., and at the main desk of the BSU Hobson Memorial Union. They also will be sold at the door, if available.

In 1981, four Twin Cities men founded the Twin Cities Men's Chorus and the first concert was performed at Minnesota's Public Library Heritage Hall in May 1981. The fledgling choral group included 45 members and their initial goals were "to achieve a high level of musical integrity, give voice and visibility to a cultural minority and finally to provide some of the tools necessary to confront the homophobia and intolerance and affect positive social change."

In a recent phone interview with Stan Hill, the current artist director, Hill spoke of the mission statement of the group, which changed its name in 1990 to the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus. The mission statement is, "Gay men building community through music."

"There is not going to be one single person at the concert who is not going to know that everyone on that stage is gay. So they are going there as a gay person or someone who supports gay people or someone who simply enjoys choral music," he said. "That brings us together as a community around a single event and that's what we love to do."

Hill talked about choral directors who scream and yell at their singers and how that experience can be horrific.

"At the beginning of my career I decided that it had to be fun or why do it," Hill said. "These singers actually pay to be in the chorus, so I try to keep things at a very fast pace through rehearsal by constantly throwing in anecdotes and personal stories that relate to the music and try to make it more interesting than just sitting there plunking notes."

Hill came to the Twin Cities chorus after serving for 11 years as the artistic director for a similar chorus in San Francisco. He is in his fourth decade as a choral director and his experience spans elementary, secondary, university, church and community choral groups. A member of the American Choral Directors Association and National Association of Teachers of Singing, Hill is known for his witty and humanistic approach to teaching and conducting.

One of the pieces the chorus will be singing is in support of the "It Gets Better Project," a website devoted to giving courage to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth and telling them that life will get better. Unfortunately, GLBT youth can often be victims of bullying.

Hill promised that there will be a feeling in the audience the night of the concert that will be unbelievable.

Then, he said, the whole idea is to carry those feeling out into their lives and into the communities.

Hill said he wants the audience to know the concert is not just a one-time event encouraging GLBT people, but that it makes the objective a little more defined and they start working toward it.

The chorus's first-ever performance in Bemidji is sponsored by the Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus Outreach Program and is hosted by two local organizations: Hospitality Initiative of the Servant Hearts and the BSU Phoenix Gay/Straight Student Organization. The event is being funded, in part, by a Region 2 Arts Council grant and a donation from Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays of Park Rapids.