HMC Welcome Heartsong and Choral Spectrum to celebrate Stonewall’s 50th Anniversary!

For our upcoming spring concert, Stonewall 50: All of Us, we’re inviting two local LGBT choruses to join us in celebrating 50 years of LGBT rights: Kansas City Women’s Chorus’ “Heartsong” and Choral Spectrum.

Heartsong of Kansas City Women’s Chorus is a special a cappella group of singers whose main purpose is to serve as ambassadors to the community in support of the Chorus’ mission: education about and advocacy for women’s and girl’s issues. They also perform as part of KCWC’s main stage concerts. Kansas City Women’s Chorus was founded in 1999 and today performs with 100+ women from diverse ages, ethnicities and religious backgrounds.

Newly formed in 2018, “Choral Spectrum” is a mixed chorus for both male and female voices that serves the LGBTQ+ community, including straight allies, and performs all types of music from classical to pop to spiritual to secular.  According to group founder and artistic director, Dr. Michael Robert Patch, the group was formed as an alternative to all female or all male choirs. “Whatever the music selections are, the overall performances will be uplifting and fun!”  Tickets to Stonewall 50: All of Us are available at hmckc.org.

 

Choral Spectrum

Matthew Schulte, Board Member

I’m down with the crown! Matthew Schulte grew up in Prairie Village, Kansas and studied Sports Management at NYU. As a member of the Heartland Men’s Chorus Board for three years, Matt has aspired to make an impact for Kansas City organizations that excite his passions.I wanted to find a way to be involved, with not being a singing member.” 

 

His first job was working at Sheridan’s Frozen Custard, scooping ice cream and making shakes and dirt n’ worms! You’ll find him today, 8 ½ years with the Kansas City Royals. Currently, he serves as the Sr. Manager, Special Events & Promotions. In his spare time, he is a real sports enthusiast. He enjoys Skiing, Softball, Tennis, Golf, and a plethora of college sports. He also enjoys movies, Forrest Gump being his favorite, television shows, and has a love for sunflowers.

 

Wanting to make a difference in Kansas City and its organizations, Matt leaves an impression in all the groups he serves. Just to name a few, Matthew is on the Board of Kansas City Youth Symphony, the Board of Greater Kansas City Attractions Association, and gives of his time to the Centurions Leadership Program. He loves to spread the message everyday of “Be True.”

 

He chose an interesting and personal way to come out in stages at 25. Matt used an article in the blog OutSports.com. The article since has helped others know that they are not alone, and we all share similar feelings and emotions. “It was a rather public way of coming out, but for me it worked perfectly to tie my connection to sports and to have someone else tell my story.” 

 

Being an Arts enthusiast, he’s a fan of both musicals and classical music. Heartland Men’s Chorus has expanded his musical palate. Although not a singing member, the community and music excellence thrill him. “I have been moved by every show, with a few tears and laughs along the way.”

 

When asked about powerful and favorite memories of being in Heartland Men’s Chorus, many people answered with a humorous anecdote. That wasn’t the same with Matt. His favorite memory about being in the Chorus was watching the group rally together after the Pulse Night Club shooting. “Seeing the outreach that the Chorus did at that time was powerful and needed.” Heartland Men’s Chorus is lucky to have him on our Board. Meet Matthew Schulte. #RoyalPain

Chuck Comstock, Tenor 2

Andrew Lloyd Weber told us “Love Changes Everything.” Our next “From the Heart” individual gives out his love every day. Charles Comstock is a Kansas City native, who is often referred to by his nickname “Chuck.” Chuck has been with the Heartland Men’s Chorus for a total of eight years as a Tenor 2. However, these aren’t consecutive years. Chuck actually was one of the founding members of HMC in 1986; after 20 years living in other cities, he returned to Kansas City and singing with this Chorus in 2015.

As a child, he would often be in the kitchen with his Grandmother; however, as an adult, Chuck was a Preschool Teacher. In his spare time, Chuck enjoys reading, pottery, swimming, as well as assisting with Kansas City organizations, such as AIDSWalk. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird made an obvious impact on Chuck, as it is both his favorite book and movie.

Perhaps the memory nearest to his heart is the day he married Jeff Greek at Niagara Falls. After the ceremony, a stranger came to them crying. This individual expressed the admiration felt to witness the wedding.

A brave man, Chuck answered truthfully and honestly when asked about rumors referring to his sexuality. Shortly after coming out, Chuck joined the Heartland Men’s Chorus. “I love to sing, and I wanted the friendship of gay men.” Being diagnosed as HIV positive, the Chorus gave him mentors on dealing with life and death. Heartland Men’s Chorus has affected him “profoundly.”

Heartland Men’s Chorus is one of the most recognized arts organizations in the Midwest. The Chorus spends a great deal of time together. Through it all, there is nothing better than its shared stories and laughter. “The Chorus is my family.” La Cage Aux Folles describes Chuck in one sentence. “I am who I am.” Meet Charles “Chuck” Comstock. #EclecticHuggingBear

Randy Hite on The Caveman Song

Rob Hill reflects on his HMC experience

If there’s a simple tag line for Heartland Men’s Chorus, it’s this: We Change Lives. I should know; it changed mine.

For men of a certain age like me, belonging to an LGBT/gay chorus provided (and still provides) a way to “come into the light,” find both self- and societal acceptance, and be more authentic—all while in the company of other men doing the same or, if they’ve already been through this metamorphosis, showing us the way. I vividly remember one song HMC performed at the first concert I attended. It’s sort of a meta anthem that tells the story of a man (just like me) attending his first gay men’s chorus concert (just like me) who sits in the back of a theater, in the dark, and hopes he won’t be spotted by anyone he knows (just like me). Then he hears them sing and realizes—they’re singing directly to him (just like me). Beckoned by their voices, he joins the chorus (just like me), and the cycle begins anew.

I joined HMC in 2005. With the exception of two years away from Kansas City for work, I have been an active member of the chorus, serving a year as president and four years as vice chair and then chair of its board of directors. In that time, HMC has continued to fulfill its vision of using its powerful, collective voice to enlighten, inspire, heal, and empower. Its concerts have been hip, fun, merry, festive, upbeat, serious, compelling, tear-inducing, and profound—the full panoply of musical genres and emotions. Its outreach has touched lives in new corners of our community, not just with music but with inspirational action (such as its annual support of AIDS Walk). It has proudly represented Kansas City at the Gay and Lesbian Association (GALA) of Choruses Festival, held every four years, adding luster to its and the city’s reputation. And this past year, it commissioned and premiered its most significant choral work to date—a 40-minute oratorio that tells the story of how the Unknown Soldier of World War I was selected, to coincide with the WWI Centennial.

In my decade-plus with HMC, I have seen members come and go for a variety of reasons. The most common is simply that life is ever-changing: we get new jobs, retire, fall in love with someone in another city, or simply need to focus on other priorities. Sadly, it’s now my turn to go.

When I joined HMC, I was an infant in my life as a gay man. Under HMC tutelage and nurturing care, I’ve matured. While it’s never easy to leave the family you love, there comes a time to leave the nest, so to speak. That time has come for me—and I am ready. I’m moving to Huntsville, AL, which has no GALA chorus. I have to believe there’s someone there waiting to be sung to and it will be my mission to ensure they hear the life-changing and life-affirming message that only an LGBT chorus can offer.

Thank you HMC for not just changing my life—but affirming it.

Love forever,

Rob

From the Heart – Tom Dillon

My name is Tom Dillon. I am in my third year as a Baritone with Heartland Men’s Chorus.  Originally from Connecticut, I spent some time in Minnesota and South Carolina as well. I moved to Missouri in 1998 and settled my family here. In 2013, I began living as my authentic self after a 20-year marriage ended that produced three great kids.  In the process of finding myself I participated in my church’s production of “Godspell.” At age 44, it was my first participation in musical theater, outside of high school/college/church choir.

While continuing my coming out journey, I attended my first HMC concert, “A Little Bit Wicked,” in June 2015. I met some terrific guys in the chorus over the summer and in September I auditioned. The chorus opened up a new outlet of support, friendship and a chance to have fun. One of my older brothers passed away at the age of 49 and that experience taught me to live life. So I have stepped out of comfort zones, performed as a reindeer, and have even been granted a few solos.  Performing with HMC has also given me an opportunity to lend my voice to the message we bring through song and performance.  Paraphrasing Dustin Cates, HMC Artistic Director, “When a gay men’s chorus sings some of these lyrics they take on a whole new meaning!” I couldn’t agree more.  Sometimes in rehearsals I tear up just singing certain phrases, and internalizing and personalizing them.  Music is powerful. My hope is that my singing helps to articulate that meaning for those listening.

As a late bloomer, HMC has been a safe place for me to explore who I am and to flourish. I have taken the opportunity to be involved in planning HMC events like our annual gala fundraiser, Dinner of Note, and some social gatherings as a way to broaden my horizons. I enjoy lending my voice outside of singing.  I feel a part of the HMC family as it has become an extension of my own amazing blood family. The friendships I have formed have sustained me at this stage in my life.

Tom Dillon

From the Heart – Holden Kraus

I am (now) an Upper Tenor 2 with HMC and joined the Chorus as a Lower 1st Tenor in January of 2015 in A Little Bit Wicked. I fell in love with the sound of the Chorus during KC Pride as I sat on a bench in the Power and Light District listening to the greatest hits of The Beatles. I knew, at that moment, that I needed to be a part of HMC! Unfortunately, due to my schedule, I had to wait a little bit to make that a reality.

 

I am an 8th grade Math teacher at West Middle School in Lawrence. I have taught 8th grade Math, Algebra 1, and Geometry for the last 6 years. I am a proud graduate of Pittsburg State University with a Masters degree in Mathematics and I am currently pursuing an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction (fancy phrase for “teaching”) with a focus in Mathematics at UMKC. 7 semesters to go!

In my free time (you know.. between semesters in the winter), I enjoy reading good books, travelling to Seattle, and puttering around Kansas City exploring new shops and events. Most of my time now is spent reading research articles and writing papers so any little sliver of free time is greatly cherished!

I joined HMC because I needed to feel connected to the LGBTQ+ community and because I have always loved to sing. In the short two years that I’ve been with the Chorus, I have made friends that will last a lifetime. There are always new connections to be made and I think the Chorus is a great way to do that!

Holden Kraus

From the Heart: Huge Success!

Following Heartland Men’s Chorus’ debut concert, November 10, 2017, at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Rick Fisher, Executive Director of Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), confirmed that it was one of the largest audiences the chorus has ever enjoyed. “Taking that kind of momentum into the regular season is exhilarating and helps to confirm for staff and chorus member alike that our mission and message is resounding throughout Kansas City. We are especially thrilled to have attracted such a large crowd in a new area of the community and right before we open our regular season,” said Fisher.

The magnificent new sanctuary at The Church of the Resurrection with The Resurrection Window (that stretches nearly 100 feet across and three stories high) served as a beautiful backdrop to the 90-minute concert. The concert featured a veritable “greatest hits” of the Chorus, including favorite “Like Dust I Rise.” Based upon four Maya Angelou poems (“On the Pulse of Morning,” “ aged Bird,” “Equality,” “Still I Rise”) the work was composed by internationally renowned composer and resident Kansas Citian, Mark Hayes, who was on hand to perform with the Chorus as well as several of his own pieces from his recent album. The Angelou poem, “Still I Rise,” was “spoken” by Angelou herself to excerpts of her writings flashings across the 100-foot screen.

According to Mike Alley of KCMetropolis, “There were several times I was brought to tears as the evening progressed. In those moments, sometimes it was the beauty of the melodies, and sometimes it was the sentiment in the lyrics, introductions, or spoken-word narratives. At other times, it was probably due to hearing such music within the vibrant sanctuary, with its amazing one-hundred-foot stained glass sculpture above the choir loft; or the projections of colorful sunsets, volcanoes, ocean waves, and excerpts from Maya Angelou’s inspiring poems flashed at exactly the right time during a song. But in the end, it is the seamless merge of the tenor, baritone, and bass parts, and the clarity of the phrasing and enunciation by the Chorus’ 80 voices under Cates’s baton that made the 14 songs and medleys performed work. Trust me, folks: hearing this level of proficiency, hearing the harmonies, dynamics, and crisp lyrics all working together this well in live performance by 80 voices is something very, very special.”

To view photos of the concert, click here to link to Photographer Susan McSpadden’s photo gallery.

Todd Gregory-Gibbs on “1,000 Beautiful Things”

Todd Gregory Gibbs

Beginning rehearsals for musical documentary “Modern Families” (presented March 2015), I didn’t anticipate the relationship I was about to have with Annie Lennox’s remarkable song “A Thousand Beautiful Things” (“Bare” 2003).

I first joined HMC in 1990 and a lot can happen in 27 years. My chorus family has been beside me through many milestones; both triumphs and tragedies

It was early 2015 and I was navigating a rough patch. As we rehearsed, I felt drawn to “A Thousand Beautiful Things,” arranged for HMC by Tim Sarsany.

Explaining any direct correlation between how I was feeling (lost, sad, angry…) and the song itself would be tough, but I felt “Thousand” – especially the way HMC sang it under Dustin’s direction – was unique and powerful, important. I auditioned for the solo and was gifted with the opportunity and privilege of singing it for “Modern Families,” which for me became a profoundly meaningful (not to mention cathartic) experience.
I assumed we were finished with “Thousand,” and naturally said goodbye to singing the solo. I was thrilled when Dustin asked if I’d sing it again for HMC’s 30th anniversary concert “I Rise” (presented June 2016), and I jumped at the chance.

I can’t describe it fully, but it’s something like being a superhero, with 200 of your best superhero friends by your side, taking down injustice and ignorance. Then there’s the sound from the chorus itself: awe-inspiring; dramatic, glorious! Who wouldn’t want to do that again?

During rehearsals for “I Rise,” I learned we’d perform “A Thousand Beautiful Things” again that summer, for GALA Choruses 2016 Festival in Denver. Again, thrilled: imagine being a superhero with 200 of your best superhero friends by your side taking down injustice and ignorance before an audience of thousands MORE superheroes who ALSO take down injustice and ignorance, every day!

Before GALA, we also included “Thousand” in HMC’s “Testimony Tour,” an outreach effort presented throughout the state of Kansas. We were welcomed graciously everywhere we sang, particularly at the Equality House in Topeka (truly a beautiful thing).

“A Thousand Beautiful Things” has indeed been a privilege to sing with HMC. It’s been an outlet for every negative feeling I’ve had, but much more importantly, it’s presented an opportunity to rejoice for any and every reason. To rejoice even if only for being alive at this time, in this place, out of all human history. That’s the nearest I can come to describing what it means to me.

As I’m writing, we’re rehearsing for HMC’s first-ever fall offering, “From the Heart.” I’m grateful and pleased we’re singing “A Thousand Beautiful Things” one more time, in a new (to us) venue, hopefully for an audience of many old and new friends!

Rev. Carol Stubbs Smith on “I Sing Out”

Carol Smith2

When I chose to fund Heartland Men’s Chorus’ commissioning of composer Mark Hayes to create a piece that would support HMC’s vision statement, I had no idea how perfect his work would be, that with every crescendo it would enlighten, inspire, heal and empower… and then some!

Times have changed, thank goodness, for LGBT men and women and their family and friends, letting their truth be known… it didn’t used to be and still isn’t in some faith communities and certain parts of our country.

I’ve had the privilege of listening to their stories through counseling and in many advocacy trips both near and far. Many others have been thrown out of their homes into the streets to fend for themselves. One extreme case was shared. After coming out to his parents a young man’s pastor-father placed a gun in his son’s room and said “you know what to do with it.” That’s beyond the pale. But there also are millions who say the accept their son or daughter but emphasize that homosexuality is a sin and many take that insult in order to keep a relationship with family.

But there is an alternative. My son’s story is happily different. Twenty five years ago he got up the courage to come out to his father and me. As gay positive as I thought I was, I cried. It’s an automatic reaction. In that moment, a mother may feel as if s the hasn’t known her son or daughter and grieves that he hasn’t felt like telling her before. My son actually nurtured me in that moment, asking me to explain. I did, and the moment passed in brief time. His father also accepted him unconditionally as did his sister and the rest is a happy family history.

Carol SmithEven if the coming out experience is in adulthood it is vital to the quality of life for any LGBT person and loved ones.

HMC strives to support LGBT persons in living an honest and full life. Not only in concerts but in long trips and to local schools they reach out to all ages voicing their encouragement.

Mark Hayes has penned a song that does this beautifully, showing in music that “there’s got to be a better way.”

If you are in the closet, you are living the life of a former prejudiced time, you are missing out on an open and honest life. Your are hiding. If you are a parent or family member or friend the same is true. If quietly supporting them, or worse, not supporting at all… now is the time to get off the bench and openly be there for them.  SING OUT!

“Life gets better, the future’s brighter, burdens are lighter when with our voices we sing out.”

Gay or straight, I urge you to find ways to stand up for inclusion in this retro-political era of leaders who strive for exclusion.

Join the chorus or one of the many fine Kansas City organizations advocating for what is right. What is the alternative? Hiding in the closet you have built for yourself or loved ones? I ask you to Sing Out! Bless you in your continued journey.