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Eugene Gay Men’s Chorus celebrates “Joy for the Holidays”

A screenshot from the Gay Men's Chorus virtual holiday show "Home for the Holigays" from Dec. 4, 2020
Rachael McDonald
A screenshot from the Gay Men's Chorus virtual holiday show "Home for the Holigays" from Dec. 4, 2020

After a nearly two- year pandemic hiatus, the Eugene Gay Men’s Chorus is performing its holiday concert this weekend in Eugene and Corvallis.

It may come as a surprise, but the Eugene Gay Men’s Chorus has only been around since 2018. And much of their existence has been hampered by the pandemic. Founding Artistic Director Evan Miles said the chorus was just hitting its stride when the coronavirus shut things down. They’d just done a joint concert with Soromundi, Eugene’s lesbian chorus, and they had a gig with the Oregon Bach Festival coming up.

“To have that just taken away in the middle of our second season was really emotionally difficult,” he said. “It was almost traumatic because there are a number of folks in this ensemble, like there are with a lot of the LGBTQ ensembles, that come to these rehearsals for more than just the music. But to be part of the community.”

But Miles said the chorus started meeting virtually. And the meetings were more than rehearsals. Scott Sunderland is president of the board of directors and singer with the chorus.

“You know, it wasn’t really as much about music at that point,” Sunderland said. “It really emphasizes how much of a community we are more than just singing.”

The chorus did several online shows over the past year. Including a holiday program.

“I learned how to do video editing,” said Miles. “So we put together a variety show, a variety TV show, that brought together the individual talents of members of the group. And then also we did virtual choirs. And we gained a new audience actually through that because we just did streaming events, hosted from Don and Scott’s living room. And so we did that for a year.”

And the chorus was able to sustain itself with grants and funds from the Cares Act. Don Hood is the treasurer.

“Most people have no idea how much it costs in background costs just to keep our organization afloat,” he said. “And the Collins Foundation and the American Recovery Act were both instrumental as well as the Oregon Community Foundation. So we’ve had generous support from multiple sources.”

The chorus also gained more members over the pandemic shutdown. Founding member Richard Daniels said you don’t have to be a gay man to join the Gay Mens’ Chorus.

“Part of our mission statement is the Eugene Gay Men’s Chorus and friends,” Daniels said. “And so we want to be very inclusive. We have women singers and we have transgender singers and we feel like we create a space for them. And that’s rewarding.”

As the chorus prepares for its first in person live concert since February 2020, Evan Miles said he’s grateful for how the group has adapted.

“I’m absolutely floored and touched profoundly by the chorus’s flexibility and desire to persevere,” he said. “Without even any complaining, or oh this stinks. There’s none of that. It's just like we’re here, we’re ready to sing. We’re ready to be together again. We’ve missed this.”

Scott Sunderland added that the chorus is determined to stay with it despite the challenges.

“Even with the pandemic still out there,” Sunderland said. “We’ve said we’re going to move forward. We’ll deal with it. But we feel that energy flowing again and I think that really reinforces to be part and to lead this organization.”

The Eugene Gay Men’s Chorus will perform “Joy For the Holidays” this Saturday at First United Methodist Church in Eugene and Sunday at First United Methodist Church in Corvallis. Masks and proof of vaccination are required.

Copyright 2021 KLCC.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.