For nearly 30 years, the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus has been a voice of diversity and inclusiveness, not only for the gay community, but for anyone who loves great music. Founded by Jeffrey McIntyre in 1981, the AGMC is embarking on one of its biggest shows yet with a tribute to The Beatles on July 9-10 at The Rialto Center for the Performing Arts. We talked to artistic director Kevin Robison about the show and the chorus’ history.
What was the impetus behind AGMC commemorating The Beatles with the upcoming “All You Need Is Love” tribute?
AGMC has done many tributes to composers, bands and stars. Doing a tribute is always exciting because your theme is laid out for you and you get to explore the many different contributions they made. In the case of The Beatles, it was an obvious choice: the music was for male voices, often with interesting harmonies, and familiar to a wide range of people. But I think the strongest connection between The Beatles and the AGMC lies in the area of social justice. The Beatles sang songs that commented on society, rebelled against it, and called for equality.
The gay-rights movement is now more front and center than it has been since Stonewall. How is AGMC continuing to play a role in the movement?
I think our role is multi-faceted. First, LGBT arts organizations like the AGMC represent the best of our community. When it comes to men of different backgrounds, ages, religious beliefs and economic stature, we are one of the most diverse LGBT organizations in Atlanta. The men of the chorus come together in a way that they don’t do at the gym, the bars or in athletics. When singing begins, all differences are put aside and everyone agrees to become one. This makes the chorus a microcosm for change in society. We don’t believe we can expect to see change in the world until we demonstrate it within our own family, and we do that every week. Second, the music we make has the power to change minds, to heal wounds and to transcend the limits of our physical existence. When that kind of power is harnessed in the shape of social justice and equality, something beautiful happens. People are inspired – even LGBT people who might otherwise say we’re preaching to the choir have been deeply moved and affected by our performances. Lastly, the AGMC continues to sing in places where we’re not comfortable, and I think that’s really important. Our recent tour of Georgia didn’t generate picket lines or threats, but there were letters to editors of local papers that decried our presence in their town. As someone who grew up in a very small town, I know first hand the importance of having an example set for you. Many of our men do. We strive to be that example for others and we’ll keep doing that until such time that we have full equality in society. Then, we’ll just sing to make art. I long for that day.
For those interested in becoming part of the group, what kind of singers are you looking for and when do you hold auditions?
We are looking first and foremost for the right person. Someone who believes in our cause, has a love for a wide range of music and is willing to work hard to bring out the best in himself. Yes, you need to be a good singer, but you don’t need to be a professional singer. We have a vocal coach to help you with that! I pride myself on having stress-free auditions that help make a singer as comfortable as possible. An ability to read music is great, but not required, and a background in choral singing in high school, college or with a church choir is a big plus. Auditions will be held again in August and the dates will appear on our website, agmchorus.org, in the coming months.