Don We Now Our Gay Apparel
Haul out the holly with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus
Reuben Reynolds, Music Director of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, likes to joke that he has the most difficult job in the world. “I have to try to get 175 gay men to be quiet, sit down, shut up, turn to the same page and sing,” he laughs.
The all-volunteer chorus clearly knows how to have a good time, but as anyone who’s been to one of their shows can tell you, they’re serious about singing. Members range from age 20 to 80 and come from all walks of life. “We have people in the chorus who are professional musicians, we have people who could’ve been professional musicians but wound up being investment bankers instead, and we have college students,” Reynolds says. “We have one guy who is working on his doctorate at MIT and at the same time going to law school at Harvard. We have doctors, we have nurses… We have a guy who drives from New Hampshire every week.”
One thing they all have in common: The desire to use their talents to inspire change and celebrate diversity. It’s what drew Reynolds to the world of gay men’s choruses in the first place. “I just fell in love with working with the men’s chorus because of the ability to integrate social activism with music,” he says. “I’ve done how many performances of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and it doesn’t really change the world… But when we get up on stage, the music that we sing really affects people’s lives.”
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus—and other groups like it—has gone through various phases over the years. “There was a period when all you had to do was walk out on stage as gay men and people said, ‘Oh my god, there are 100 people out there who are actually saying they are gay.’ This was 30 years ago,” Reynolds remembers. “And then we went through the whole AIDs epidemic where much of our purpose was raising money for research and taking care of each other. And we’ve moved past that to a different stage and this year we’re really examining gay families and the different permutations and how you get the opportunity to find your own.”
In light of that change, the Chorus’ holiday show will have a strong family focus this year. “We like to call it Boston’s other holiday tradition,” he says. The program changes every year, but you can expect a mix of traditional Christmas tunes and a few other songs you may be a bit less familiar with, like “The 12 Gays of Christmas.”
It’s all in good fun, yet Reynolds adds, “No one is quite prepared for the emotional impact that the concert has. What I can’t stand is when someone comes and hears a concert and leaves thinking, ‘Oh, that was nice.’ I want to be mad about something, or think about something, or be really moved by something.
“So much of the music that we do is about our lives... We simply stand on stage and we tell you the story of our lives.”