Holly, jolly and gay Christmas

The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus celebrates its 25th year with ‘Our Gay Apparel’

Haily Gostas

Three priorities consume Daniel Hennagir’s life. “My partner, my job and the chorus,” said an AT&T collections agent by day, and 11-year member of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus by night. “I never have any problem managing them all because they are exactly what I’ve wanted to commit to from the very beginning.”

The Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus Presents “Our Gay Apparel”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Ted Mann Concert Hall, West Bank
TICKETS: $19-$39; available at www.tcgmc.org

Being a member of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus certainly requires dedication – practice for one of a season’s many performances usually begins 13 weeks in advance, with three-hour rehearsals at least once or twice a week and a handful of music that needs to be memorized.

Still, the TCGMC provides much more than a busier schedule and a well-trained ear to its 140 tuxedoed singers. A member also has the opportunity to gain entrance to a brotherhood devoted to the promotion of community and a positive image of gay men through musical excellence.

Now, in its 26th season of providing entertainment “worth coming out for,” the TCGMC is a nonprofit, voluntary community choir.

“In 1978, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus conducted a U.S. tour and Minneapolis was one of their stops,” said former SFGMC member and current TCGMC artistic director Stan Hill. “There was already a small group of guys, around 12 or so, that were singing together, but seeing that show come through town inspired them to get serious about it and organize something similar.”

In 1991, the word “gay” was added to the chorus’ title, joining the 189 other international members of Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, of which the Twin Cities’ is now the fourth-largest.

Despite its immense development over the years, TCGMC’s goals remain to celebrate diversity and allow the power of song to not only delight audiences, but to educate and heal the burdens of homophobic intolerance.

“I think our main purpose is to dispel stereotypes,” said Hill. “Most of the general public is suffering under the delusion that we are all like Jack from ‘Will & Grace.’ “

“We’re not all drag queens, leather daddies and effeminates,” Hennagir added. “We do have those individuals in our chorus, but when we take the stage in full tux, you don’t see individual typecasts, just a group of men committed to singing their hearts out.”

The choir will bring all this and more to the University campus starting Dec. 8, when the men present their holiday pageant, “Our Gay Apparel,” at Ted Mann Concert Hall.

“This concert in particular I’m really excited about,” said Steve Humerickhouse joined the chorus six years ago as an instrumentalist and now sings. “There is going to be a wonderful mixture of the timeless and the silly. We even have sets and costume changes this year!” he said with a laugh.

“We’ll be doing a lot of traditional carols with a twist,” Hennagir said. “The first half will be more serious and traditional, but the last is more campy and fun.”

Hill hinted that the second act will have a hilarious take on the fashion reality show “Project Runway,” he said. “It’s titled ‘Our Gay Apparel!,’ so it has to be about clothes!”

All of the men praise Minneapolis most for the accepting audiences that frequent these performances. The Great Southern Sing-Out, a July concert tour that had the TCGMC performing in cities like Nashville, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala. and New Orleans, proved that some simply could not be charmed.

“Touring the South was definitely an obstacle because they’re a very closeted society,” Hennagir recalled. “When we played a show in Mobile, Alabama, we had to have police officers there for our safety. Here, that wouldn’t even cross my mind.”

Hill claims the chorus tries to avoid being overtly political. “The politics are in our name only,” he said. “It’s hard to go to one of our concerts and not know we’re a gay men’s chorus, but when there’s an issue with that, it tends to rally the troops and bring in even more supporters.”

Ultimately, TCGMC wants its members to express themselves through music, not protest.

“I’ve been out for seven years,” said Humerickhouse, “and through the chorus I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be open and accepted.”

“Once you’re in, you’re welcomed 110 percent,” Hennagir agreed. “The chorus will become your family.”