Sing out

Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus

The Nevada Gay Men's Chorus rehearses.

The Nevada Gay Men's Chorus rehearses.

Photo/Anna Hart

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In the Trinity Episcopal church, the Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus rehearsed for their annual holiday concert.

“What is the dynamic level there? It’s mezzo forte, not mezzo wussy,” joked Ted Owens, the artistic director of the ensemble.

The Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit chorus of around 30 men and one woman who perform a variety of classic hits, show tunes and pop anthems. Since its inception, the group has grown to be a key part of Reno’s musical culture. They were the featured performers for Hillary Clinton’s campaign rally in Reno in November and at the most recent Nevada Prayer Breakfast.

“We are lucky to be part of a community so rich in culture and art,” said Steven Meyer, the executive director of the group. “We are a part of the artistic landscape of the Truckee Meadows and are proud to be a contributor to [its] entertainment aspect.”

The chorus endeavors to promote social equality as well as musical artistry in the Reno area.

“I think this group gives the gay community a way to show themselves to everyone else in a way that is not really in your face,” said Steve Wolf, a bass in the chorus. “It helps to put a positive face on LGBT in Reno.”

At the same time, the ensemble recognizes that the LGBTQIA+ community is often only represented by the Neil Patrick Harrises of the world, pushing the movement for acceptance forward by choosing figureheads who are the most palatable.

The Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus takes a markedly different approach. They promote diversity by actually being culturally diverse.

“As an organization we are progressive, and we are able to attract more than the white, middle-class gay man,” said Owens.

Their group is composed of a dynamic range of sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, age and even gender. The “Gay Men” in Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus is less of a requirement for membership and more of a statement on the social values the group promotes.

The chorus was founded and followed in the footsteps of great gay choruses across the country, whose beginnings originated from the movement for LGBT rights following the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

“Our mission is not just to be another performance group, but to advocate for equality, and not just one form of it,” said Ian Rossi, one of the group’s original members. “It’s for sexual, gender, racial and socioeconomic equality. By putting ’gay’ in the name we’ve shown that we are about equality over everything else.”

Overall, even in a relatively conservative community, the Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus and their mission has been warmly received.

But while their cultural identity and mission is important, the musical aspect of the group is just as vital.

“What I like personally is that the younger generation is enjoying chorus music,” said Phil Harriman, 50, a baritone in the group and a local high school teacher. “I think we spread the good word of music as much as we spread the word of being comfortable in your own skin.”

As a (nearly) all-male chorus, the ensemble brings a unique musical character to the Reno arts scene. The group has capitalized on the rich resonance of the male range, and is able to explore its possibilities in a way that simply can’t be done with a mixed-voice chorus.

Currently, the chorus is seeking new members and is open to any individual, regardless of gender identity, who can sing in a male voice register and supports the mission that the Nevada Gay Men’s Chorus promotes.