You might have heard them perform at the Farmer’s Market in Bloomington, Indiana, or perhaps at your Sunday church service. Maybe you’ve heard them at the Pride Film Festival or as part of World AIDS Day. That’s the Quarryland Men’s Chorus for you, making a point of getting out in the community and singing for as many different people as they can.
The group first formed in the spring of 2003, and it boasts a diverse membership, with both gay and straight members, young and old, and those with degrees in music and those who cannot read music at all.
Their mission is to provide a positive performance-based community for gay and bisexual men and their allies in South-Central Indiana. But as can be seen in the diverse locations at which they perform, their mission is also to serve as ambassadors from the gay community.
“In some ways, we’re kind of cultural warriors,” said Barry Magee, the chorus’s artistic director. “(We’re) out there to change people’s thoughts, misconceptions, ideas about who are gay men.”
This belief affects the music he programs for the group to sing. It’s important to select songs with which the group can develop a personal connection, Magee said. They recently performed an entire program about AIDS and AIDS awareness, and “we couldn’t even get through the first rehearsal without everyone crying.”
This kind of intense connection to the music can also be felt by the audience members who hear the chorus’s performances. And sometimes they get laughs by singing songs such as “There Will Be No Bad Hair Days in Heaven.”
Magee says he has received messages from people touched by their performances. “We’ll get a random e-mail from somebody saying ‘I’m not out to anybody else, but I noticed (your performance) and I stopped and it made a difference in my life.’”
It’s just as important, Magee says, to connect with straight people in the audience. He points to the music as the force that makes the differences between the performers and the audience members melt away. “And then at the end of that, I think there’s some residual effect. They may still not understand what it means to be gay, and ‘I don’t know if I accept gay people or not, but they seem like okay people.’”