HMC Announces Artistic Director Appointment

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Rick Fisher



Heartland Men’s Chorus Announces Artistic Director Appointment

KANSAS CITY, MO (May 1, 2020) — The board of directors  of Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), today announced Shawn Cullen has been appointed as the permanent Artistic Director of the Chorus. High res photos and video for media use can be found here.

Shawn Cullen, educator, conductor, and artistic director, has earned a reputation for his dedication to musical excellence and striving to make a difference within the communities of which he is part. Of his new role, Shawn said, “”I love being a part of a magic that only music can make. I get to see the impact of such a one-of-a-kind experience for the singers each week-and on the faces of our amazing Kansas City audiences that support the HMC legacy.”

His past leadership includes eight years as Artistic Director/Conductor for Reveille Men’s Chorus & Desert Voices Mixed Chorus, Southern Arizona’s GALA Choruses, and most recently as director of HMC’s small ensemble, Burnt Ends. Recognized for his skills as a versatile music educator, Mr. Cullen has held positions in K-12 instrumental/vocal music, adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music and conductor for the Arizona Repertory Theater with many credits including “Into the Woods”, “Avenue Q”, “The Full Monty”, and “EVITA.” Mr. Cullen is currently a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory completing course work towards his Ph.D. and serves as Director of Music at the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church. Mr. Cullen holds a Bachelor’s of Music Education and a Masters of Music in Conducting from the University of Arizona and is a proud member of the national board of directors for GALA Choruses.

Cullen has served as Interim Artistic Director for the 2019-2020 season, while HMC conducted a national search for a permanent director. The cost of the search was generously funded by former chorus member, Cliff Schiappa, in memory of his mother, Norma S. Menck. Search Committee chairperson, Steve Dodge, said, “we held all of the applicants to an extremely high level of performance in the areas of education, musicianship, experience, accomplishments, and artistic vision. We were delighted to find all of those qualities already in our midst in our very own Shawn Cullen.”

HMC currently does not have a concert scheduled due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, but planning is underway for the next concert season. An announcement about future performances is expected in the next few weeks.


ABOUT HEARTLAND MEN’S CHORUS – Heartland Men’s Chorus ( is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 34th season. Founded in 1986 with 30 singers to make music, HMC quickly became a safe oasis for a community scarred by fear and hatred, while plagued by a virus. Now with 120 singers, HMC is a vital part of Kansas City’s robust arts and cultural scene, making the historic Folly Theater its performance home for 26 years. HMC also presents regional outreach concerts in a five-state area and has performed nationally and internationally in joint concerts with other GALA choruses. They regularly perform at GALA Choruses International festivals. The Kansas City Star has called Heartland Men’s Chorus “one of the most beloved arts institutions in Kansas City.”

Honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising 

Libby Hanssen  | KC Studio

February 27, 2019

Heartland Men’s Chorus Presents World Premiere of “Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall 50”

In March, the Heartland Men’s Chorus honors the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising as they present the world premiere of “Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall 50.”

Co-commissioned with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, along with over 20 other ensembles, it is the largest co-commissioned project in the history of gay and lesbian choruses.

The eight-movement work, from six composers, honors the events (sometimes termed “riots,” while others prefer “uprising”) that occurred in and around Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn. It began June 28, 1969, when a police raid on a gay-friendly bar turned into nights of protests, lighting the flame for LGBT activism. Every year since, the anniversary of the gay liberation movement is marked by Gay Pride Marches in New York City and across the world.

Instead of recreating the timeline of events, the work “celebrates the big ideas Stonewall stands for,” said Dustin Cates, artistic director of the Heartland Men’s Chorus.

“‘Quiet No More’ is starting in the heart of the country, which I think has some symbolism,” said Cates. Predating Stonewall, LGBT rights activists from across the country met in Kansas City in 1966 for the National Planning Conference of Homophile Organizations, the first nationwide meeting of this kind. Today, a historical marker in Barney Allis Plaza designates this meeting. “Some say the gay rights movement began (here),” said Cates, “and that Stonewall is where it took off.”

Jason Cannon is one of the forces behind the creation of “Quiet No More.” He sang with the NYCGMC for 15 years but has since taken a more behind-the-scenes role, writing and directing. He spearheaded the research, which took nine months, and wrote the creative brief for the composers, as well as the dialogue between the works, which serves to set the stage for Greenwich Village in 1969.

“It was fascinating to take a deep dive into the nuances of this event that happened in 1969,” said Cannon. “I have always heard about the uprising in broad terms, and it was interesting to dive into the details. The weather was very hot on the night of the uprising, there was a full moon, the bouncer at Stonewall would flash lights on the dance floor to signal that the cops were in the lobby.”

“What I learned was that it was not an easy thing to trace. A lot of the people who had been at the uprising are no longer living. And because there was such a whirlwind of activity, even amongst people who were there, there are disputes about what actually happened.

“It’s still a little bit of a mystery and we try to maintain some of that mystery. We decided it wasn’t our job necessarily to solve the puzzle, but we did our best to take what the historians had pieced together and present it in a way we thought the audience can try to experience,” said Cannon.

He likens the performance more to a radio play than a historical documentary, letting the music and words facilitate the audience’s imagination. “It was more of a goal to place the audience into, as best we could, some sort of experience that emulates what happened, and let them decide where they would have been standing at that time,” he said.

“Quiet No More” includes contributions from Michael Shaieb, Our Lady J, Julian Hornik, Michael McElroy, Ann Hampton Callaway and Jane Ramseyer Miller, familiar forces in the LGBT chorus world and beyond.

This method, said Cannon, brings together different points of view, different voices and different music styles. “We gave these composers a lot of creative license. We really wanted their voices to shine through,” he said.

In June, New York City Gay Men’s Chorus performs “Quiet No More” in Carnegie Hall, as part of WorldPride, a month-long celebration of LGBT pride. It’s the first time the international celebration will be held in the United States.

A cohort of 400 singers from choruses across the country joins together in this performance. “We are sending a delegation of our singers . . . there’s no venue big enough for all the members of all the choruses, except maybe Madison Square Garden,” joked Cates. Similarly, a delegation will travel to Los Angeles in July for a performance in Walt Disney Hall that also celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.

Along with “Quiet No More,” HMC performs works that “highlight some things that are uniquely Kansas City and the LGBTQIA community,” said Cates, including the participation of fellow LGBT musical organizations: Heartsong, a small ensemble from the Kansas City Women’s Chorus, and Choral Spectrum, a recently formed Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass (SATB) LGBT chorus.

“The other half of the concert will take a modern day look at the LGBT rights movement, with the narrative that advocacy for these rights is advocacy for the rights of all of us,” Cates said.

Much of that repertoire speaks to the need to live with authenticity and hope, such as “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman;” Annie Lennox’s “A Thousand Beautiful Things;” “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hanson;” to the more humorous “Way Ahead of My Time.”

That half of the concert closes with “All Of Us” from Craig Hella Johnson’s “Considering Matthew Shepard.” This piece was part of the service at the National Cathedral, where Shepard’s ashes, 20 years after his murder, were interred in October 2018.

Though Stonewall was a violent reaction to injustice, spurred by anger and fear, over the past 50 years this legacy has transformed into a message of unity, perseverance and pride.

Thirty minutes before each performance, Stuart Hinds, Assistant Dean for Special Collections and University Archivist at UMKC, will discuss the pivotal role of Kansas City in the national struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights before the 1969 Stonewall uprising. Hinds will also touch on Kansas City’s very active social scene during the same period.

Heartland Men’s Chorus presents “Stonewall 50: All of Us” March 23 at 8 p.m. and March 24 at 4 p.m. at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St. For information visit

HMC’s “From the Heart”

HMC’s “From the Heart:”  A virtual “greatest hits” that connects with long-time audience members and the community.

KANSAS CITY, MO (September 29, 2017) — Dustin S. Cates, Artistic Director of Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), announced Monday their 32nd year will start for the first time in the month of November by adding a fall performance, From the Heart, at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. A goal of Artistic Director Cates since he began in 2014 has been expanding to a fourth concert to help raise awareness of the chorus with new audiences in southern Johnson County.  

The concert is at 7:30 p.m., Friday, November 10, in the magnificent new Church of the Resurrection sanctuary under Resurrection Window, the world’s largest stained glass window. From the Heart celebrates the chorus that has made a huge impact in the LGBT community in the heartland. The performance will include audience favorites from years past, a veritable “Greatest Hits” of the Chorus. The concert will also feature Kansas City musician Mark Hayes, an internationally known and award-winning composer, arranger, pianist and conductor who has more than 1,000 publications in print. His work includes compositions for piano, orchestras, jazz combos, small ensembles and choruses of all kinds. “Creating beautiful music for the world” in his home here in Kansas City, Hayes’ local roots are a blessing for Heartland Men’s Chorus as he’s composed more music for HMC than any other composer. Hayes will perform music from his recently released piano solo album.

In addition, HMC will perform “I Sing Out,” “Grace,” and back by popular demand “Like Dust I Rise,” commissioned for HMC’s 30th Anniversary season. Based upon four of Maya Angelou’s poems including “On the Pulse of Morning,” “Caged Bird,” “Equality,” and “Still I Rise,” the composition powerfully addresses discrimination as Angelou’s words resonate with hope and personal resilience in the face of opposition. Chorus member Steve Dodge has written “Each time we sing ‘Equality,’ I am reminded of the forces at work to take away hard earned rights of the LGBT community. As we sing her words, we stand together to send a message that no one is free until we are ALL free. ‘Equality, and I shall be free.’”

Completing the performance are works including “A Thousand Beautiful Things,” by Annie Lennox, a song that holds surprising meaning for long-time chorus member Todd Gregory-Gibbs. “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.” In addition, the chorus will sing favorites “Thanksgiving Song,” by Mary Chapin Carpenter, “I Love You More,” by Ann Hampton Callaway, (from “Tyler’s Suite,” sung by soloist Nancy Nail), and “Dust in the Wind,” by Kerry Livgren, among others. Nancy Nail reminisced about singing the role of Jane Clementi (who lost her son to suicide after being cyber bullied by his college roommate). “It’s not about me…Nancy Nail … when I sing it. It’s quite emotional but such an important message. It’s about telling the ones we love how important they are, and how much we love them and support them,” said Nancy.

Tickets to the fall performance From The Heart at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection are on sale now. Purchase online at or call816-931-3338.

ABOUT HEARTLAND MEN’S CHORUS – Heartland Men’s Chorus ( is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 32nd season. Founded in 1986 with 30 singers to make music, HMC quickly became a safe oasis for a community scarred by fear and hatred, while plagued by a virus. Now with 120 singers, HMC is a vital part of Kansas City’s robust arts and cultural scene, making the historic Folly Theater its performance home for 24 years. HMC also presents regional outreach concerts in a five-state area and has performed nationally and internationally in joint concerts with other GALA choruses. The Kansas City Star has called Heartland Men’s Chorus “one of the most beloved arts institutions in Kansas City.”

Visit for more information about Heartland Men’s Chorus’ 2017-2018 season. High-resolution photos of the chorus can be obtained by contacting the chorus office at 816-816-931-3338.


Parking at HMC Venues

Information for Folly Theater parking can be found online at The parking garage, immediately west of the Folly Theater, is the primary parking garage for Heartland Men’s Chorus patrons. Event parking is $8 per car and may be purchased upon arrival (cash only at the gate).  Parking at COR is readily available and free to the public. Parking is also free and freely available at JCCC’s Carlsen Center.


HMC’s 32nd Season is underwritten by Hotel Phillips. The Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation, Missouri Arts Council, Hall Family Foundation, Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Arts Council of Greater Kansas City, and Neighborhood Tourist Development Foundation (NTDF) also are among the many supporters of Heartland Men’s Chorus’ 32nd season.

Student Discounts

Student tickets are available for $7 (with valid ID, one ticket per ID). They may be purchased in advance by calling the HMC box office at 816-931-3338 or at the door prior to the performances based on availability. The Box Office opens one hour prior to all performances.

Social Media

Receive updates by joining Heartland Men’s Chorus’ Page at and following @hmchorus on Twitter.

Heartland Men’s Chorus

2017-2018 Full Season at a Glance

From The Heart (FALL SHOW)

November 10, 2017 | Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, KS

Friday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Packages With Beaus (HOLIDAY SHOW)

December 2-3, 2017 | Folly Theater, Kansas City, MO

Sat., Dec. 2, 8:00 p.m.

Sun., Dec. 3, 4:00 p.m.

December 10, 2017 | Yardley Hall, Carlsen Center, JCCC, OPKS

Sun., Dec. 10, 4:00 p.m.
Single tickets to Packages with Beaus are on sale October 16th.
Wrap yourself in HMC holiday packaging and finish it off with the perfect “Beau” to kick off your holiday merriment. At the Folly Theater, December 2-3, we’re beside ourselves to announce Well Strung, the hunkiest boys with bows, will be joining us to share their world-renowned string quartet magic. On December 10, in Johnson County’s Yardley Hall, we’ll be coming back for the second year and bringing our friend and Broadway sensation, Claybourne Elder, fresh from New York in “Sunday in the Park with George.” The perfect combination of familiar carols, choral classics and hilariously zany twists on adored holiday music; Heartland Men’s Chorus has become Kansas City’s favorite non-traditional holiday tradition!


March 24-25, 2018 | Folly Theater, Kansas City, MO

Sat., Mar. 24, 8:00 p.m.

Sun., Mar. 25, 4:00 p.m.
Single tickets to are on sale December 4th.

We hope you’ll put on your disco boots and join our dancing queens as HMC celebrates one of the greatest bands in popular music history. Featuring everything in the ABBA repertoire from “Take a Chance on Me!” to “Mamma Mia,” you’re sure to be singing at the top of your lungs before the curtain falls. We plan to be completely silly and have a great time to say, “Thank you for the music!” Single tickets available online beginning Monday, December 11, 2017.

Indivisible (SUMMER SHOW)

June 9-10, 2018 | Folly Theater, Kansas City, MO

Sat., June. 9, 8:00 p.m.

Sun., June 10, 4:00 p.m.

Ever wonder about the phrase “With Liberty and Justice for All?” We certainly do and with the prejudice, inequality, bias and discrimination happening in the world around us, Heartland Men’s Chorus will present our response with, “Indivisible.” HMC will be joining forces with the National World War I Memorial and Museum to celebrate the principles of our great nation’s founding . . . that ALL are created equal. Single tickets available online beginning Monday, March 26, 2018.

Season tickets starting at $72 are on sale to the public through Packages With Beaus. All season subscribers receive free tickets to From the Heart.



Please direct all media inquiries to Rick Fisher, 816-931-3338 or


Tickets on Sale Now for Kansas City Christmas!

KCC16 HMC website graphicHeartland Men’s Chorus
2016-17 Season Kicks Off with a
“Classy, Brassy and Sassy” Kansas City Christmas

Tickets are on sale NOW for what is fast becoming one of Kansas City’s favorite non-traditional holiday traditions, Kansas City Christmas! In its third year, Kansas City Christmas brings an exciting blend of familiar carols, choral classics and hilariously zany twists on your favorite holiday music.

What is helping to build the audiences of Kansas City Christmas? According to critics, it’s the unusual combination of a more serious first half combined with a really eclectic second half. It features something for everyone and will leave you laughing out loud and ready for the holidays.

Artistic Director, Dustin S. Cates, recently commented on the fun task of choosing the music, “I love my job! Where else can you combine John Rutter’s Gloria with a wacky tribute to the holiday love-it-or-hate-it FRUITCAKE?”

To help take things to a feverish height, add in the Volker Brass from UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance and you have a celebration you can’t miss.
“Classy, Brassy and Sassy!”

So don’t wait! Get your tickets now . . . you have two locations from which to choose, the Folly Theater or Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College.

“Kansas City Christmas” will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, December 3rd and 4 p.m. Sunday, December 4th at the historic Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street in Kansas City, and Saturday, December 10th, at Yardley Hall in the Carlson Center, on the campus of Johnson County Community College., in Overland Park, Kansas.

Tickets to the Folly performances are available online at or by calling 816-931-3338. Yardley Hall performances must be purchased through the Carlsen Center Box Office at 913-469-4445. Prices range from $18 to $43 with special student pricing at $7 (some ticket fees apply and vary by location). Come as you are, dress is casual, be ready for fun, but visit today!

On the Road!

Heartland Men’s Chorus, Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, is hitting the road again following a wonderfully successful concert tour last month of Hays and Salina. On Friday, July 1st, a touring ensemble of the Chorus will make stops in the Kansas cities of Topeka, Abilene, and Russell singing a few a cappella songs at each stop that are appropriate for the July 4th weekend. All performances are free and suitable for all ages.

The first stop will be at noon in Topeka on the front lawn of Equality House at 1200 SW Orleans Street ( Coincidentally, this location happens to be directly across the street from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. The singers will turn toward the church compound to ensure their voices of diversity and inclusion can be heard by those who hide behind outlandish signs and hateful beliefs.

Our second stop will be at 2:30pm in Abilene on the front steps of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum at 200 SE Fourth Street. We look forward to singing for a cross-section of tourists who will be visiting this famous central Kansas landmark. (

HMC’s third stop will be at 5:00pm in Russell at the Deines Cultural Center at 820 N. Main Street ( Russell is well known as the boyhood hometown of two United States Senators, Bob Dole and Arlen Specter. Chorus members look forward to meeting local residents preparing to start their holiday weekend with our selection of patriotic songs.

The Chorus will overnight in Colby and then continue on to Denver for the GALA Choruses International Festival where they will be performing to a sold-out crowd in the 3,000-seat Buell Theater at the Denver Performing Arts Center on July 5th.

ABOUT HEARTLAND MEN’S CHORUS – Heartland Men’s Chorus ( is Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, now in its 30th anniversary season. Founded with 30 singers to make music, HMC quickly became a safe oasis for a community scarred by fear and hatred and plagued by a virus. Now with upward of 125 singers, Heartland Men’s Chorus is a vital part of Kansas City’s burgeoning arts and cultural scene. HMC has made the historic Folly Theater its performance home for the past 23 years and The Kansas City Star recently cited HMC as “one of the most beloved arts institutions in Kansas City.”

Newly Commissioned Song “I Rise” Based On Poetry By Dr. Maya Angelou

Heartland Men’s Chorus (HMC), Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, pays tribute to the late United States Poet Laureate Dr. Maya Angelou by commissioning a song inspired by four well-known poems written by the world renowned poet and civil rights activist.

HMC is the first chorus in the nation to receive the rights from the late poet’s estate to create music that uses her poetry.

The song, titled I Rise, was created by internationally acclaimed musician and composer Mark Hayes. It is written for men’s voices, runs approximately 11 minutes in length, and includes an orchestra of 16 instrumentalists.

I Rise will make its world premiere in its entirety on Saturday, June 11 and Sunday, June 12 as part of the Chorus’ 30th anniversary concert, also titled I Rise, at the Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City.

Four of Dr. Angelou’s poems are used as source material in the song: On the Pulse of Morning, Caged Bird, Equality, and Still I Rise.

“Maya Angelou’s name and poetry are synonymous with Civil Rights and elevating oneself and ones’ surrounding community,” says HMC Artistic Director Dustin Cates. “It’s only fitting, as Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, to present a significant choral work for not only our own audience, but for anyone who hears it in the future, wherever they may be.”

After presenting I Rise in Kansas City, Heartland Men’s Chorus will travel to Denver for the International Gay and Lesbian Choral Festival where HMC will perform it for thousands of singers, composers and directors on Tuesday, July 5 at Buell Theater in the Denver Performing Arts Center.

30th Anniversary Concert “I Rise”

Heartland Men’s Chorus, Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, presents I RISE, our 30th anniversary concert that looks back at our proud history while looking forward with the inspiring words of the late United States Poet Laureate, Dr. Maya Angelou.

The first half of our concert features songs that are memorable milestones of our incredible history starting with Brothers Sing Out which was performed at our very first concert in 1986. Since then, our audiences have been moved to tears, offered raucous laughter and reflected upon songs that resonate with them for so many different reasons. Our first half selections are the musical gems of Heartland Men’s Chorus.

The second half of the concert will offer songs that evoke the feeling and memories of the safe places we call home, followed by the world premiere of I Rise our newly commissioned piece by internationally renowned composer Mark Hayes and inspired by the poems of Maya Angelou. HMC is the first chorus to receive rights from Dr. Angelou’s estate to make use of her poetry in a significant musical work.

“Her poetry is synonymous with Civil Rights and elevating oneself and ones’ surrounding community,” says HMC Artistic Director Dustin Cates. “It’s only fitting for Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus to commission and present this significant work.”

HMC is proud to be collaborating with the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey as four of their dancers, directed by Chief Artistic Officer Tyrone Aiken, will interpret I Rise on stage with the Chorus.

“This concert is a perfect way to celebrate the rich history of an incredibly unique arts organization,” says Cates. “No other chorus in the Great Plains does what we do, or draws such large crowds, or provides a message that entertains, but also heals and inspires.”

I RISE will be performed 8 p.m. Saturday, June 11 and 4 p.m. Sunday, June 12 at the Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th Street in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Tickets ranging in price from $18 to $43 are available online at or by calling 816-931-3338.
Come as you are, dress is casual, be ready to be inspired!

A Couple’s Road To Emmaus, Fatherhood

StoryCorpsSuzanne Hogan | KCUR

Raymond Cattaneo and his husband Dustin Cates were together six years before they decided that they wanted to adopt a baby and build their family.

The Kansas City couple met with a social worker to partake in a home study, and as they were wrapping it up, Cattaneo called Cates from the hospital, where he was doing rounds.

“You said, hey there is a mom here who had a baby, and I think she wants to give it to us,” recalls Cates. Cates rushed to the hospital to meet with the mother and to see their son for the first time. “I can still remember walking in and seeing our little boy, and thinking how could she give him up?”

They started to talk to the mother about the next steps to take.

“About 15 or 20 minutes later, she said well I’m leaving the hospital today and I want you to have him,” says Cates. “So of course, we immediately panicked because we weren’t ready to take a baby home.”

Coats and Cattaneo met with their social worker and lawyer, figured out a plan, and six days later, they brought their son, Emmaus, home.

“I look at him in that name as a call for me to go change the world, because that’s what he did for us,” says Cattaneo. “It just speaks this idea of unconditional love.”

The name Emmaus comes from a Bible passage that is dear to their family.

It’s from the book of Luke. After Jesus had been crucified and resurrected from the dead, the apostles were walking to the town of Emmaus when they met a man along the road who was Jesus, but at the time they didn’t recognize him. They invite Jesus to walk with them and stay with them and eat, and during that process they realize who he is.

“And that sort of changes their entire world,” Cates says. “That was a really outstanding name for a kid who would do the same thing for us. Who would come into our lives, and turn things upside down, but make things amazing.”

Editor’s note: StoryCorps OutLoud visited KCUR in June to collect stories from Kansas City’s LGBTQ community in partnership with the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America.

BWW Preview: Heartland Men’s Chorus Presents MODERN FAMILIES

Steve Wilson |

Diversity in the American family is the theme of Modern Families presented by the Heartland Men’s Chorus at the Folly Theater on March 28 and 29. The chorus continues with its series of musical documentaries that use music, narration, and multi-media elements to illustrate social issues.

“I wanted to celebrate the love and dignity that all families deserve,” said Dustin S. Cates, Artistic Director for the chorus. “There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ family. It seems every person defines the word family in slightly different way.” Heartland Men’s Chorus, Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, will present songs and stories specific to LGBT families but Cates expects the concert to appeal to all types of families.

Music from the production is diverse, including classical works, contemporary pop songs, and rap. The program opens with the Lawrence Children’s Choir performing a set of four songs. The men’s chorus joins them in “The Weaver,” a new commission by local composer Jacob Narverud. The first act includes “Luminescence,” an original song by Dr. Andrea Ramsey, which commemorates the birth of Cates son, Emmaus.

The musical documentary comprises the concert‘s second act, and includes “Not My Father’s Son” from the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, Annie Lennox‘s “A Thousand Beautiful Things,” and Rene Clausen’s “Set Me as a Seal.” “Marry Us” and “In My Mother’s Eyes” two popular songs by Robert Seeley will be featured. “Same Love” by Ryan Lewis and Macklemore marks the first time the men’s chorus performs a contemporary rap number and features local rap artist EvoKlone Alex.

Nancy Bean, a Kansas City adoption social worker and member of MAFA, will facilitate a pre-show discussion on the topic of family building in the LGBT community beginning 20 minutes prior to each performance. To further illustrate the diversity in contemporary families, audience members are invited to submit photos of their “modern families” via the chorus’s website, to be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #OurModernFamilies.

Modern Families runs at the Folly Theater at 8 p.m. on Saturday March 28 and 4 p.m. on Sunday March 29. Purchase tickets by calling 816-931-3338 or online at the Heartland Men’s Chorus website. Photo courtesy of the Heartland Men’s Chorus.

Heartland Men’s Chorus celebrates ‘Kansas City Christmas’

Derek Cowsert | Kansas City Star

gay mens chorus 8It’s not every night you’ll see a 3-year-old in a tux.

But, then, it’s not every night when that same 3-year-old, Emmaus Cates-Cattaneo, takes the Folly Theater stage as conductor of the Heartland Men’s Chorus holiday concert, as he will Saturday.

Nor, come to think about it, does one often get the opportunity to hear Mayor Sly James belt out a solo “I’ll be Home For Christmas.” That will come Sunday.

But back to the kid. Emmaus is the son of new artistic director Dustin Cates, who will be doing all the other conducting for the three performances this weekend.

Nepotism, one might contend, but it’s not, really, since Cates didn’t have anything to do with it. It was Raymond Cattaneo, Cates’ husband, who purchased the guest conductor prize at Dinner of Note, the chorus’s fundraising gala.

“I kept saying to Ray, ‘Why are you bidding on that? They pay me to conduct.’ He surprised me by giving it to our son, so we got him a little tuxedo with tails,” Cates explained, beaming.

These guest appearances promise to be two highlights of “A Kansas City Christmas,” put on by one of America’s largest gay men’s choruses.

Native son Cates wants the first show of his inaugural season to be a celebration.

“Pride in our community is at an all-time high. I wanted my first concert as artistic director to reflect the spirit, flavor and music of my hometown,” Cates said.

The holiday concert offers a mix of traditional Christmas carols and sacred music with humor sprinkled throughout.

“Kansas City Christmas” places local artists front and center. Many of the featured composers have Kansas City ties, including Lyndell Leatherman and Jacob Narverud, who both will premiere new commissions.

Guest singers include rising indie pop star Dustin Rapier and soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson, whom Kansas City arts supporters will recognize from her work with the Lyric Arts Trio, the Kansas City Chorale, the Kansas City Symphony and the Bach Aria Soloists.

The Park Hill South High School Drumline also will take the stage for a rendition of “Little Drummer Boy.”

As the fourth artistic director in the 29-year history of the chorus, Cates brings a local pedigree: bachelor’s degree in music education from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance; master’s in school leadership from Baker University; then 11 years as chorus director at Raytown South, then Shawnee Mission South, and finally Olathe East High School.

In 2013, Cates was invited as guest conductor for a Heartland Men’s performance of “I Am Harvey Milk.” During those rehearsals, he decided to apply for the open full-time position, though it seemed a long shot.

“I thought, I’m a high school choral director. I don’t have the kind of experience with gay choruses some of the other candidates have,” he said.

The search committee saw things differently.

“There are some real similarities to teaching a class full of high school students to directing a chorus of 150 gay men,” Cates joked.

This concert is the culmination of hours of practice for the singing members of the chorus, as well as tons of work for the 40 non-singing members, the Heartlights.

“Our slogan is if you can’t carry a tune, perhaps you can carry a bucket. We do all the behind-the-scenes work, from the stage to the office,” said Rusty Moore, president of Heartland Men’s Chorus and leader of the Heartlights.

“Heartland Men’s Chorus is a very well-run organization. All the other choral organizations across the country look to us for guidance,” explained Moore. “This is kind of a refuge for a lot of people. We cater to a lot of different needs.”

The members rehearse at the Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral downtown. This is a time for not only singing, but socializing. At a recent practice, there was even a doctor administering flu shots.

“It is wonderful, having men that you can be comfortable with in your own skin. You don’t have to pretend or even hide who you are. It’s one pressure you don’t have to worry about,” said second-year bass Mario Alcantara, a physical therapist from St. Joseph who commutes every Tuesday for rehearsal.

Tenor Jimmy Blanch, worship leader at Broadway Church in Westport in his seventh year with the chorus, added, “The chorus to me is like a family.”

Founded in 1986, Heartland Men’s Chorus is a not-for-profit chorus of gay and gay-sensitive singers. The chorus performs jazz, Broadway, popular and classical music and often utilizes a documentary format of music, narration and multimedia to illustrate issues of social justice. In addition to concerts at the Folly, the chorus puts on dozens of community outreach performances annually.

The Friday and Saturday shows of “Kansas City Christmas” begin at 8 p.m. The Sunday show starts at 4 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to or call 816-931-3338.