It was a hot July night in 1979. A small group of men opened the doors to a room at the Plummer Park Community Center in Los Angeles (now West Hollywood), waiting and wondering if anybody would show up. They had posted flyers around the neighborhood announcing the formation of a new gay chorus and this night was to be its first rehearsal. To their great surprise, 99 men appeared and a chorus was born. Within three months of that rehearsal, founding director Harold Kjellberg led the group through its first major event: the March on Washington, D.C. and the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) concert at the Washington Memorial.
While public understanding of gay life has evolved much since 1979, there is still fierce resistance to lasting change by opponents to LGBT equality. And the road to today has not always been easy. Through the height of the AIDS crisis, the Chorus lost over 150 members. Only 12 original members remain. As a result, GMCLA has a deep history of service within the LGBT community, singing at countless memorials, making and commissioning music that helps the community to mourn, to celebrate, to dream, and to prepare for victory.
For over 37 years, the Chorus has built an international reputation for musical excellence while remaining deeply rooted in service to the Los Angeles community. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the last important links to a glorious tradition in music,” GMCLA has more than doubled in size to over 250 singers, added professional and artistic staff, toured nationally and internationally, released fifteen CD’s, commissioned more than 300 new works and arrangements and appeared frequently on national television. The Chorus membership donates over 60,000 volunteer hours annually to make GMCLA’s mission of musical excellence and community partnership a reality.
1979: Ninety-nine gay men assemble in July at West Hollywood’s Plummer Park to form GMCLA.
1980: GMCLA incorporates with assistance from AT&T.
1982: GMCLA participates in first festival of Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA), of which GMCLA is a founding member.
1984-1986: GMCLA litigates and successfully prevents attempts to quash the word “gay” from its title and promotional material with the American Choral Directors Association; and in its white pages telephone listing with Pacific Bell.
1987: GMCLA feels the devastating loss of the HIV/AIDS epidemic by losing its revered musical director, Jerry Carlson. Since then, approximately 150 members have succumbed to the disease.
1989: GMCLA becomes first business in West Hollywood with “gay” on its street sign.
1991: GMCLA becomes first gay men’s U.S. chorus to tour central Europe. Featured in a documentary entitled “Out Loud” which aired on PBS.
1994: GMCLA performs in New York’s Carnegie Hall.
1996: GMCLA releases two CDs:“Songs of Love” and its first holiday CD “Don We Now…”
1997: Vox Femina’s debut performance as a special guest at GMCLA’s “Naked Man” concert.
1999: GMCLA becomes first gay men’s chorus ever to perform for a sitting President of the United States – Bill Clinton. GMCLA launches second international tour in Moscow and St. Petersburg and is broadcast on Russian television.
2002: GMCLA appears on NBC’s “Will & Grace.”
2003: GMCLA appears on HBO’s “Six Feet Under.”
2005: GMCLA performs for Sir Elton John at Society of Singers event.
2006: GMCLA becomes first openly gay chorus to tour South America, raising money for LGBT and HIV organizations. GMCLA helps begin first South American gay chorus in Rio de Janeiro.
2007: GMCLA’s Alive Music Project gives debut performance at La Canada High School.
2010: GMCLA records video as part of it gets better campaign in support of LGBT teens.Video goes viral, reaching over 800,000 views.
2011: GMCLA performs for President Barack Obama at West Hollywood fundraiser.
2012-2013: Season 34 becomes GMCLA’s most successful season yet, with dazzling concerts; special guests Stephen Schwartz and Liz Callaway; launch of the it gets better national tour and Outside Voices; and a performance on the 85th Annual Academy Awards.
2013: GMCLA performs the national anthem with Amber Riley for Dodger Stadium’s first LGBT night.
Fall 2013: Dr. Joe Nadeau is welcomed as GMCLA’s new Artistic Director.
2015: The it gets better Tour travels extensively with week long residencies in Ohio, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Colorado.
March 2016: Members of GMCLA travel to Cuba to meet Mano a Mano and become familiar with Cuban culture – in preparation for June’s concert Oye Mi Canto, featuring the men of Mano a Mano.
April 2016: The fifth annual Voice Awards is held at the Dolby Ballroom Hollywood, supporting GMCLA’s Alive Music Project, and it gets better Tour.
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