I wanted to sing.
I sang all through my youth and into my college years. But then I stopped. It seemed that there was never enough time. Work. Marriage. Travel. More work.
But last year, I determined to find a way to sing again. I’d always dreamed of being part of a men’s choir. So I went online and searched for a men’s singing group in Greater Cincinnati. There was just one. The Cincinnati Men’s Chorus.
I checked out the web site. I found information about performances and rehearsals and commitment. And then, there was the line – “for gay and gay-friendly men.” I’m straight. But I’m definitely gay-friendly, so I decided to find out more. I friended CMC on FaceBook. A few days later, a message popped up informing me that the final auditions were that week.
I chickened out. I convinced myself it would be too time-intensive. But a week later, there was another FaceBook message. The audition period had been extended. I had another chance. So I emailed the membership chair.
An hour or so later, he called. After a little hemming and hawing, he said “you know – at the moment, you will be our only straight member. Are you comfortable with that?”
I suppose this is where I could be very dramatic and say that this was a watershed moment for me. But honestly, I didn’t have a moment’s hesitation. Like I said, I wanted to sing. And this group offered what I wanted. I auditioned. I was accepted. And I went to my first rehearsal.
I had no trepidation about being the only straight guy there. But in retrospect, I realize that the other members walked on eggshells the first couple of weeks I was there. Was there banter that would be unacceptable with me in the room? Was I a handshake man or a hugging sort of guy? No one wanted to offend me.
You see, CMC is not about being gay. It’s about friendship and sharing and being part of a community. Our music isn’t “gay,” whatever that might mean. You could come to a CMC concert and have no idea that you’d just been entertained by a group of gay men. Or, more correctly, a group that is nearly all gay men. That, in many ways, is the most wonderful aspect of all of this. We are a group of men who love to sing. (And incidentally, most of us are gay.)
Artistic director Patrick Coyle says that every time we perform, we make a statement that will change somebody’s life. During the past year, I have come to understand what he means. But to me, what makes our statement so profound is that we aren’t making an in-your-face, preachy, proselytizing proclamation. We refuse to fit into any stereotype of “gay.” We are football lovers and ballet lovers. We are Republicans and Democrats and everything in between. We are computer geeks and car aficionados and, in every way, are just like the community around us.
Yes, I’m the straight guy. But I have found a group where I belong, where I am welcome. And so are my wife and child. CMC is made up of men who are smart, worldly, clever, connected and thoughtful. They are men who are serious but know how to laugh. My year-old son is fortunate to have so many kind and loving uncles.
Cincinnati Men’s Chorus is a group to be celebrated, to be appreciated, to be heard and seen because, if I do say so myself, we can be fabulously entertaining. We make Greater Cincinnati a better and richer place to live. For 20 years, CMC has enriched the cultural landscape of this community. My only regret is that I did not find them and join them earlier.