We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.

FEATURE | 25 Seasons Of Jubilation With Toronto’s Singing Out!: The LGBTQ Chorus

By Brian Chang on November 29, 2016

Artistic Director Jody Malone leads the chorus of Singing Out: The LGBTQ Chorus. (Photo: Brian Chang)
Artistic Director Jody Malone leads Singing Out: The LGBTQ Chorus. (Photo: Brian Chang)

Think ahead two moves” yells out Jody Malone; she’s the Artistic Director of Singing Out. The ballroom at the 519 Community Centre in downtown Toronto is divided into two huge sections, male-identified voices and female-identified voices facing the front. They are singing a cheeky tune, Greg Gilpin’s, Please Don’t Sing Another Fa La La. They are also dancing actual choreography. Across the front, two lines of dancers pass in front of the main body of the choir. These are choristers who have auditioned to be part of a smaller dance ensemble. Everyone is singing and dancing.

Singing Out are 25-years-old this season. There are about 120 singers this year which make them one of the biggest choral games in town. Howie Dayton, the President of the Choir, has been with the Choir for 7 of them. The organization has grown a lot from just a few singers in a church. The Choir has managed to secure funding from Government arts agencies in its growth and has started to get funding from corporate donors like Manulife and TD Bank. Dayton is especially proud that the choir provides financial assistance to members who are unable to pay fees or associated costs. This choir of students, doctors, retirees, teachers, chefs, and so much more do not leave anyone behind.

Singing Out: The LGBTQ Chorus rehearses with Artistic Director Jody Malone (Photo: Brian Chang)
Singing Out: The LGBTQ Chorus rehearses with Artistic Director Jody Malone (Photo: Brian Chang)

The choir is also non-auditioned which means that the artistic teams help place you according to your voice, but you aren’t excluded because of lack of technical skill. While the choir learns music initially on paper, everything is performed off book which equalizes the experience for everyone.

The room erupts with noise and laughter after the first full run through of Gilpin’s Fa-La-La. With these people, this ensemble, it is incredibly clear that no one wants each other to succeed more than the choristers themselves. There is an intense warmth and camaraderie through the group.

There is an added dimension of community unique to a Choir like this. Howie explains “I came out late in life. I had a late start. A friend thought it would be a good way to meet people. I walked into rehearsal, the Choir was 35 people at the time, and instantly felt welcomed. I’ve never looked back”. The Choir isn’t just a performing arts group, it is made up of the LGBTQ community and is an active part of it. Singing Out has been featured at Nathan Philips Square, part of Pride festivities, Holiday on the Square events, the World AIDS Vigil, and will be at the Distillery Christmas Market. And they are a key part of their home at the 519 Community centre where you can hear them rehearsing from throughout the building.

Singing Out: The LGBTQ Chorus (Photo: Brian Chang)
Singing Out: The LGBTQ Chorus (Photo: Brian Chang)

Earlier this year the Choir participated in the Gala Festival in Denver, the world’s biggest LGBTQ Choral Festival. In four years time, it will be in Minneapolis. The Choir will be there. Here in Canada, Unison, the Canadian LGBTQ Choral Festival takes place in Calgary 2018. Howie and the rest of the Choir are excited just thinking about it.

For now, they are just trying to think “two steps ahead” while remembering all their music. Everything the Choir performs is off book. After a false start to a song Jody cuts them off and starts again “Gently, this time with full knowledge of the first note,” and the group erupts in laughter. Jody smiles and pauses before bringing them in again. There’s a lot of laughter in this group.

There is a host of pleasant repertoire ahead for their concert. John Rutters What Sweeter Music; Amy Bernon’s Winterlight; Audrey Snyder’s Fum Fum Fantasy; and much more. There is a Kyrie by a young American composer, Nick Dahlquist. The opening direction caught me particularly “From a place of wavering insecurity and desperation”. The eight-part voicings make this a broad and pleasing work. And for the first time, the Choir has hired a choreographer to help them prepare for their concert. They are committed and will bring their A-game.

Twenty-five years ago when the choir started the world was a very different place. The history of an organization like Singing Out! is important to note — they were welcoming, loving, and proud at a time when it was not always safe to do so. There are testimonials on their website of Chorister experiences from the last 25 years. They are remarkable:

“The most challenging moment as a member of the choir came when, in my first year, I had to sing a song entitled: “I Like Being A Dyke.” I could hardly say the word “dyke” in a conversation! To sing it proudly and become comfortable with the word was a definite challenge!”

“It was a completely different way of fighting the culture war, by reaching out rather than striking back. And it was a place I knew I could make a difference.”

Congratulations on 25 years of proud music.

Singing Out performs Not Another Fa La La! Saturday, December 3rd, 2016, 3 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Jame Mallett Theatre, St Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Toronto.


Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and review before anyone else finds out? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for all the latest.

Share this article
comments powered by Disqus


company logo

Part of

Terms of Service & Privacy Policy
© 2024 | Executive Producer Moses Znaimer