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Choruses and Bands  
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Gay and lesbian ensembles must target their communities carefully, presenting music that will appeal to a diverse audience and also further the communal and political aspirations of glbtq communities. This demands a great deal of flexibility in technique and repertoire, as many groups need to connect both with audiences interested in classical music, as well as audiences who listen to a variety of genres of popular music.

Many ensembles find it useful to create traditions, such as holiday concerts or yearly productions of stage shows, in order to keep their audiences. Choruses often form smaller ensembles that perform popular work in non-traditional venues, such as gay and lesbian bars or cabarets.

Most groups also become a kind of community resource. In addition to their scheduled concerts, they often appear at local community events such as gay pride celebrations, scholarship fundraisers, P-FLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) receptions, and Human Rights Campaign dinners.

Organizational Structures

Organizational structure for the lesbian and gay ensembles varies widely from group to group. In the 1970s and early 1980s, many groups attempted to create structures that would avoid the formal hierarchy of a conductor directing the activities of the group, or the judgmental aspects of auditioning members.

In the long run, many groups found that a committee-based, partially democratic form of the traditional classical ensemble structure enabled them to achieve some continuity. The negotiations between organization and freedom remains an important aspect of the politics of each ensemble, as well as an aspect of relations among ensembles.

As a result of these tensions, there are sometimes conflicts between issues of musical presentation and sociopolitical status. Despite these conflicts, many groups frequently manage to achieve high levels of musical professionalism.

The gay and lesbian choral movement has had a large impact, not only on gay and lesbian communities and their public image, but also on the world of choral music, which has been greatly enlivened by its presence.

Paul Attinello

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arts >> Overview:  Conductors

In spite of the presence of many gay, lesbian, and bisexual figures in the field of classical music, it is difficult to identify more than a handful of self-identified, openly gay or lesbian conductors even in the early years of the twenty-first century.

arts >> Overview:  Music: Classical

Classical music is an important component of Western culture to which glbt people have contributed significantly.

arts >> Overview:  Music: Popular

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons have had tremendous influence on popular music, though some musical genres have been more receptive to a homosexual presence than others.

arts >> Del Tredici, David

Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer and pianist David Del Tredici, known for his famous "Alice" works and neo-Romantic style, has also written music concerned with gay experience.

arts >> Feinstein, Michael

American pianist and singer Michael Feinstein has had a lifelong fascination with the popular music of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

social sciences >> Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

The largest glbtq political organization in the United States, the Human Rights Campaign has emerged as the leading national organization representing glbtq concerns.

social sciences >> Milk, Harvey

Harvey Milk, among the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States, was assassinated in San Francisco's City Hall, making him the American gay liberation movement's most visible martyr.

arts >> Morris, Mark

American choreographer Mark Morris creates works that typically mix elements of Eastern and Western cultures and frequently explore sexual ambiguities.

arts >> Near, Holly

Activist, singer, and songwriter Holly Near has been a tremendous influence in the formation and promotion of the women's music movement.

social sciences >> Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), an American organization of some 460 affiliated chapters and 80,000 members, works to support glbtq people and their loved ones.

arts >> Rorem, Ned

American composer Ned Rorem is one of the most accomplished and prolific composers of art songs in the world, but his musical and literary endeavors extend far beyond this specialized field.

arts >> Susa, Conrad

American composer Conrad Susa is best known for his operas and choral music, some of which are informed by his experience as a gay man.


Attinello, Paul. "Authority and Freedom: Toward a Sociology of the Gay Choruses." Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, eds. New York: Routledge, 1994. 315-346.

[____.] "Sims, John Reed." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Classical Musicians. Laura Kuhn, ed. New York: Schirmer/Macmillan, 1997. 1263.

Boerger, Kristina. Whose Music Is It Anyway?: Black Vocal Ensemble Traditions and the Feminist Choral Movement: Performance Practice as Politics. D.M.A. dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2000.

Gordon, Eric A. "GALA: The Lesbian and Gay Community of Song." Choral Journal 30.9 (1990): 25-32.

Roma, Catherine. "Choruses, Women's." Lesbian Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia. Bonnie Zimmerman, ed. New York: Garland, 2000. 166-167.

_____. "Women's Choral Communities: Singing for Our Lives." Hotwire 8.1 (January 1992): 36.

Vukovich, Dyana. "The Anna Crusis Women's Choir." Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 4.1, issue 7 (1986): 50-63.

Wise, Matthew. "Choruses and Marching Bands." Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia. George E. Haggerty, ed. New York: Garland, 2000. 189-190.


    Citation Information
    Author: Attinello, Paul  
    Entry Title: Choruses and Bands  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 15, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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