I moved to Cincinnati in 1993 to attend the College-Conservatory of Music. Part of the decision to come to Cincinnati (instead of other schools) was the existence of the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus. I wanted to be a part of the chorus because 1) I was officially coming out and needed some support, and 2) I wanted a social outlet apart from CCM. I was a singer in the chorus for two years before I became Artistic Director, and I can’t begin to express the way it changed my life.
First, I immediately made friends. I was embraced in a group of fantastic men who played bridge every Friday and also sang in the chorus. Not only did I treasure those hours of music making every Wednesday night, my bridge buddies introduced me to their friends, and I got to know more gay and gay-friendly people than I ever imagined.
Beyond ALL of that, though, what really moved me was the words we were singing. With this chorus, I sang words that affirmed who I was, who I could be, and what the world could become. I sang words that celebrated my relationship, and gave me courage to live openly. I sang words that encouraged me to make the world a better place. And I realized that every time CMC walked on the stage, lives were changed – on that stage and in the audience.
In all of my years of making music in choirs, orchestras, church and theater, I had never experienced that: music that was not only moving and entertaining, but life-changing. On a weekly basis, I watched people empowered to value their lives as gay men. At every performance, people see their lives validated. Barriers are broken down by the beauty of music, and minds are opened and changed. It’s the most amazing thing to see, and I hear these stories all the time.
In 2002, CMC created a performance called Mothers and Sons. One person in the audience came as the last-minute guest of a subscriber. She and her gay son had been estranged for five years, unable to come to any common ground. Following the concert, she phoned her son, who immediately went to his parents’ home, where they talked all night. The mother came back to the concert again the following night. A family was reunited, fueled by what the mother saw and heard on that stage.
Every concert we sing is preceded by a huddle of the singers where we share the names of those we know are audience members that night. Invariably, there are newbies – people who have never attended anything remotely related to the LGBT community. Sometimes the singers are nervous about it – that person may be a family member, a boss, a neighbor who (until then) “didn’t know.” Those people are swept into an embrace of applause and encouragement for their courage, and the singers move onto the stage to work their magic. It’s why I came to CMC and it’s why I still believe in the magic.
This is Dr. Coyle’s sixteenth and final season as artistic director of the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus.