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The Gateway Men’s Chorus is going all out for its 25th anniversary with a concert featuring a collection of songs that will run the gamut from “Funny Girl” to Lady Gaga.
Songs from “A Star Is Born,” “Les Miserables” and the “Wizard of Oz” coupled with a rendition of Patsy Cline’s “I’ve Got You” are sure to leave audiences laughing, cheering and getting on their feet. The guys don’t just sing – they dance, too. Their take on Lady Gaga’s “I Was Born This Way” wouldn’t be complete without some dance moves inspired by the superstar.
In honor of its anniversary, the chorus of more than 80 men from the St. Louis area also will sing several original songs, including the funny “Gay in St. Louis,” and the emotional “Losing My Mind.”
“You’ll get the seriousness, the laughs and they’ll even throw in some twists,” said Jason Johnston, who used to sing with the group and is now the marketing and public relations director for the chorus.
Johnston compared the chorus’ “Our Song” concert to an episode of the popular musical comedy TV show “Glee.”
“If you like ‘Glee,’ then you’ll love this,” he said.
Al Fischer, a longtime member of the chorus who took the reins as artistic director in August 2011, said Gateway Men’s Chorus collaborated with several of the group’s past directors when selecting songs for the anniversary concert, which will be on Saturday, March 31, 8 p.m., at The 560 Music Center, located at 560 Trinity Ave. in the Loop.
“We got input on what they wanted to hear since the concert will focus on music that has been written or arranged for Gateway Men’s Chorus in the past,” Fischer said, noting chorus founder Michael Cohrs and other former directors will be at the concert. “We’re embracing our role in the community, where we are now and how far we’ve come.”
Gateway Men’s Chorus has come a long way since Cohrs started it in 1987 with 22 members. The group has released four CDs, including its most recent album entitled “I Want To Fly.”
The chorus has performed on the popular TV show “America’s Got Talent,” and took the Powell Hall stage in 1996 and 1998. In 2003, the chorus made a special appearance with internationally renowned soloist Ann Hampton Callaway in a benefit concert for cancer research, and also has performed with several other prestigious musicians and choruses over the years.
Gateway Men’s Chorus, which works to promote gay culture and acceptance through excellence in musical performance and education, is also dedicated to the St. Louis community. The non-profit chorus participates in several local events including Pride Fest, Grovefest and First Night. The group also often performs to raise money for charities such as One St. Louis, St. Louis Effort for Aids, C.A.R.E. and others.
Gateway Men’s Chorus has earned several awards and accolades, most recently Focus St. Louis’ “What’s Right With The Region!” award for improving racial equality and social justice.
“We are the first musical group to win this award – it’s pretty huge,” said Wendy Markum, managing director of Gateway Men’s Chorus.
More Than Music
Gateway Men’s Chorus is about more than the music.
“We sing for a cause – acceptance and coexistence of anyone and everyone in our community – gay, straight, lesbian, transgendered ... it doesn’t matter,” Gateway Men’s Chorus Board President L.T. Miskel said.
The chorus, which includes people of all ages, sexual orientations and occupations, is a perfect example of the diversity and acceptance it tries to promote.
“I love the dichotomy of our chorus,” said Colin Keller, 27, of Gravois Park in south St. Louis, who joined the chorus two years ago. “We have all walks of life.”
Chorus members will tell you the best part about it – aside from singing – is the friendship and camaraderie they share with one another.
“These are my brothers,” Keller said. “We’re supportive and accepting of each other and we really are a family.”
Miskel echoed that sentiment.
“The camaraderie we experience is amazing,” he said. “Everyone loves to give a great show and become a better musician and singer, but it goes beyond the music. They (the guys) are like my family, and we’re family through thick and thin. You get 80-plus new friends instantaneously.”
Gateway Men’s Chorus is always encouraging new members and is a non-audition chorus, meaning any guy (18 and older) who loves to sing is welcome to join, Johnston explained. The group rehearses for three hours every Monday night at the Centene Center for the Arts in downtown St. Louis, and typically performs three concerts a year at the Edison Theater or The 560 Music Center.
Tickets for the “Our Song” 25th anniversary concert are $25 or $20 for students and seniors and may be purchased online at www.gmcstl.org. A group rate of $15 per person is available for groups of 15 or more.