NWA Men’s Chorus celebrates diversity in the region through music

Northwest Arkansas Men’s Chorus rehearses for their holiday concert.. Photo provided.

by Rob Howard
Associate Editor

“Creating an LGBT chorus can be challenging because you want to be open to everyone, to be in the truest sense a community chorus,” Jeff Walker, managing director of Northwest Arkansas Men’s Chorus told The Gayly. “But your audience expects a high level of performance, great artistic presentation.”

And that’s exactly what Walker and the nearly 30 members of NWA’s new chorus intend to deliver. Planning for the chorus began in January. “We felt like it was a good time to create something that would build community and celebrate diversity. It was a good time to form an organization around the community building piece,” he added

The chorus plans to do two major concerts a year, one in December, and one in May. Their first concert is December 2, at Fayetteville’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. The spring concert will be May 26 but the location hasn’t been finalized. There will be five or six smaller community concerts at events sponsored by other organizations or an individual.

Walker was also a founder of the Men’s Chorus of the Ozarks in Springfield, Missouri, so he had a good idea of what he was getting into. “When we formed, we joined GALA Choruses right away.”

GALA leads the North American LGBT choral movement, cultivating the artistic development of 10,000 singers from more than 190 choruses in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

He praised the organization, saying, “They helped me tremendously when I didn’t know what I was doing. They don’t charge you anything for the first year. They have provided a lot of templates for a start-up chorus.”

The thing that is most fun in starting a chorus, according to Walker, is building community. “It starts with the group of guys forming the chorus. Getting to know each other, coming together to share. The sense of humor that comes out when you get 30 guys together.”

The chorus rehearses Monday evenings at the St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Springdale. People interested in joining the chorus are invited to come to the first two open rehearsals at the beginning of each concert cycle. The next open rehearsals, for the May concert, are January 22 and 29.

Although the chorus is formed as a gay men’s organization, it is not exclusive. Straight men who are allies are welcome as well. “We accept anybody that fits into the tenor based vocal range. You have to match pitch. I think we have two or three straight members,” Walker commented. “We don’t have a formal audition; we just have a hearing audition so the director can place you in the appropriate part.”

Members of the chorus are primarily from Fayetteville, Bentonville and Springdale, although two members drive in from Fort Smith for rehearsals.

The chorus is under the artistic direction of Dr. Ryan Fox, an experienced choral director who is the Director of Choirs at Rogers High School in Rogers, Arkansas. In addition to his work in education, Fox has over 20 years’ experience as a church musician as well as having a Master of Music in Choral Conducting.

Their accompanist is André Strydom, an accomplished pianist from Pietersburg, South Africa.

Men interested in joining the NWA Men’s Chorus can find further information about it on their website, www.nwamenschorus.org under “Get Involved”. “The best way is to contact us and let us know they are coming,” Walker added. The organization’s email address is Info@nwamenschorus.org

In order to continue their goal of community building, the chorus is going to be looking for non-singing volunteers and new singers. “In the future, we are looking for partnerships with other arts organizations for our concerts including dancing and instrumentalists.”

Copyright The Gayly – November 29, 2017 @ 6:55 a.m. CST.