I am truly a child of the 50s. Between watching old MGM musicals, Lawrence Welk, and school field trips to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. I have loved music for many years. Hearing the amazing voices of Mario Lanza, Katherine Grayson, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette Macdonald, and Jane Powell at an early age, I was hooked on music. I still can not watch Imitation of Life with Mahalia Jackson singing “Soon I Will be Done With the Troubles of the World” in the funeral scene, or the lyric soprano voice of Margery Mckay, who was the uncredited singing voice for Peggy Wood, in her role as Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music without getting emotional and choked up. I can not let a year go by without listening to Judy Garland sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in The Wizard of Oz. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas. Disney’s 1940 Fantasia left me in awe. It was the all-Disney concert performed by the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus that made me want to be a part of the chorus.
Once I joined the chorus I was told on several occasions that every time you step on to the stage to sing, you change someone’s life. A person seeing you will, for the first time, be seeing a group of gay men who have come together to help break down walls and reshape stereotypes through the art of music. I am sure that happens as I have heard the stories firsthand. However, performing with the chorus also changed MY life and has had a profound impact on me on a number of occasions. At my very first holiday concert the wife of one my cancer patients came up to me and told me how much she enjoyed the concert. I inquired how her husband was doing and she told me to ask him myself — he was standing there with the biggest smile on his face in full remission. To be able to share my gift of song with him as he embraced his newfound gift of life was inspiring. It makes you realize how precious life is and how we must do what we can while we are here to make life better for everyone.
Another special moment for me was during our 70s concert when I looked up into the balcony and saw my mother dancing with more enthusiasm than I was. And if you know me, you know I LOVE to dance. Although my mother has since passed, she talked about that concert for years and it will always have a special place in my heart to be able to share it with her.
The CMC creates memories and that is what I cherish most. It is why I sing. I am so thankful to have so many supportive people in my life between my birth family and my chorus family, I truly feel blessed.
Donald A. Kemper
CMC Member since 1997