Pride Chorus celebrates 10th anniversary

Group to perform commemorative show on Saturday night

Posted: Friday, December 07, 2007

The Juneau Pride Chorus has a serious message, but for the last decade it has used humorous music to extol the virtues of tolerance, members said.

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"We are always working on something humorous, but we also have fun singing well," said founding member Marsha Buck.

The Juneau Pride Chorus will present a special 10th anniversary concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Northern Light United Church. Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Juneau sponsors the chorus.

Buck said the group held its first rehearsal on Oct. 11, 1997, in conjunction with National Coming Out Day, the internationally observed awareness day for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. It was advertised as "Come out and sing," she said.

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What: Juneau Pride Chorus 10th anniversary concert.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Northern Light United Church.

Cost: $30 for a family; $15 for adults; $12 for students and seniors. Free for kids younger than 5.

About 30 people attended and they have been meeting on Friday nights ever since, performing for the community several times a year.

After having difficulty getting men to participate in the chorus in the beginning, it decided to be an all-female group, Buck said.

"It's a powerful group for women, and there are not a lot of those around," Director Leslie Wood said.

It is not a chorus comprised solely of gay and bisexual singers, Buck said.

"We're a very healthy mix of gay and straight women," she said.

Taffy Wells, a member since 1997 and one of the group's three co-managers, said the community has come to embrace the chorus in its first decade.

"I think for the most part we've been widely accepted and people really enjoy our music," she said.

The chorus aims to teach tolerance about different lifestyles and points of view through singing, Wells said.

"We sing to make political statements and I'd say to open people's minds to politics through singing," she said.

The group likes to have fun with the music and often will change the lyrics of love songs written for heterosexual couples, Wells said.

"When you have a gay chorus singing them, they take on new meaning," she said.

The program will include new music as well as other favorite pieces the chorus has performed over the last decade. Among the new choral works are selections from "Menopause: The Musical" and a choral setting of the children's song "If You Love a Hippopotamus."

The chorus also will perform the song it commissioned titled "Crack in the Wall."

Wood said the audience is a major component of any Juneau Pride Chorus concert. The group of roughly 35 singers hopes to celebrate on Saturday with its many supporters from the last 10 years.

"I really look forward to the audience," she said. "To share this music with our audience and kind of walk through memory lane and have fun again."

There are many memorable experiences and performances over the years, Wood said. At times, the beauty of the music, the intent of the songs and the talent of the chorus have led her to tears.

"It's happened a few times," Woods said. "And the chorus hates that because it makes them start crying. It's kind of like a special moment that we're sharing but it's hard to keep singing when you're crying."

Buck said she has fond memories of the group's performance at a regional gay and lesbian chorus festival at Benaroya Hall in Seattle in 2002.

"We sang to an audience of many thousands and received standing ovations," she said. "It was an incredible experience. That was when we realized that we are good. Not only do we have fun, but we have quality."

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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