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.