Since 1986

Our History


Credit: Gordon Johnson

Taking the Initiative

In the summer of 1986 Gordon Johnston, inspired by the example of the Vancouver Men’s Chorus, conceived of a gay men’s choral group for Ottawa. An article on the Vancouver Chorus in GO Info, the local gay newspaper, was the spur. 

Through contacts in the gay community, including the Metropolitan Community Church, active at the time, he brought together a small organising group in late August, including Barry Deeprose, Tom Gallagher, Mark Krayenhoff, Glen Lewis and Ralph Wushke. This group was determined to recruit by word-of-mouth for rehearsals beginning that autumn. The Ottawa Men’s Chorus (OMC) was thus formed and held its first rehearsal September 9, 1986.


First Concert


The Ottawa Men’s Chorus would hold its first concert on December 13, 1986 at St. George’s Anglican Church with a full program of choral music. Ottawa had held its first pride picnic that summer at Strathcona Park. From the beginning, the Chorus found quick uptake, with a dozen members from the start, and rapid growth.

   Ottawa Citizen – December 6, 1986

The chorus developed its mission statement in 1988, aiming “to perform quality men’s choral music and to contribute to the gay community.”

The Ottawa Men’s Chorus performs for the first time on December 13, 1986.

Photo Credit: Andrew Currie-Beckstead

In addition to its annual concerts, the Ottawa Men’s Chorus sang at many community functions. Pictured OGMC performing at PTS Gala (top, c. 1987), EGALE Fundraiser (bottom, 1987)

Credit: Philip Hannan

Gordon Johnston commenting on the omission of the word ‘gay’, “If we’d had the “g” word in there, it would have been the Ottawa gay men’s duet.”

Gordon Johnston, Ottawa

Credit: Philip Hannan

building networks

The OMC would hold its first joint concert in Toronto on April 15, 1989 and in Ottawa a week later on April 22, 1989. That summer, the Chorus would participate in Ottawa’s first Pride parade.

That same year, the OMC performed its Christmas Concert Season’s Tidings in both Ottawa and Montreal, “to encourage the formation of a gay community chorus” in that city. Having the opportunity to sing outside Ottawa was also important in building the confidence and excitement of members.

a Pan-canadian festival

Support from outside Ottawa was also important, particularly the encouragement received from the Vancouver Men’s Chorus and its director, Willy Zwozdesky, to host a pan-Canadian Lesbian and Gay Choruses festival called “Galafest Canada 1991”, with Toronto Gay Men’s Chorus, Vancouver Men’s Chorus and the Ottawa Women’s Chorus at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Toronto and at Centrepointe Theatre, Ottawa.

Sing Galafest Toronto. June 29, 2991

“A Day without Art” benefit for AIDS at the National Gallery of Canada.
Photo credit: Philip Hannan


The HIV/AIDS crisis was a constant threat in the gay community in the 1980s and into the 90s. AIDS was no abstract issue, as it directly affected Chorus members, partners and friends. In 1991, the choir performed at the “A Day without Art” benefit for AIDS at the National Gallery of Canada.

The following year, the OMC performed the first of several concerts “In Memoriam” of community members who had passed away, and continues to pay remembrance to recently departed friends during its concerts.

In part a response to the ongoing epidemic and complacency at political levels, this period marked a very active and prolific period for the OGMC and the queer choral movement.

Joining voices, JOINING FORCES

The Ottawa Men’s Chorus took part in its first international GALA festival, GALA IV hosted by Denver, Colorado, in July 1992. The OMC would continue to take part in many joint concerts with choruses from Montreal, Toronto, and here in Ottawa.

Angela Casagrande took the role of guest conductor in 1992 – 1993, and continued with the tradition of co-hosting and performing with choirs in Ottawa and in Montreal, with Gordon returning as Musical Director in 1993 for the chorus’ holiday concert season.

Our apologies to Michael Lucero.
The Chorus presents its new name and logo.
The OGMC presents its new name in 1996, now in both English and French.

Credit: Shawn Scallen, XTRA

affirming our identity

In 1996, the Ottawa Men’s Chorus attended another international GALA festival, held in Tampa, Florida, and celebrated its first decade that June with an updated logo and a new name!


Under the Rainbow. Sous l'arc-en-ciel. June 21, 1997


In 1997, the recently renamed Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus performed with In Harmony, Tone Cluster and Vox Femina, in a Pride concert organized by the Ottawa Rainbow Choral Alliance, an initiative to assemble the city’s 2SLGBTQ+ choruses together in song, on the same stage.

The following year, the OGMC attended the inaugural Canadian GALA Choruses Festival in the spring of 1998 in Edmonton. The festival would be held every four years.


Colour Me Proud, a joint concert with the Ottawa-Carleton Police Chorus in June 1998, was a big step in helping bridge the rift between the local police force and the gay community at the time. This was Gordon Johnson’s last concert directing the chorus.

It is a momentous time when community members gather together to listen to song and music. It is a historic time when the communities are the local police and gay men’s choruses.

Brian J Ford, Chief of Police, Ottawa


Marg Stubbington (who then conducted Vox Femina and Tone Cluster) would work with the choir as Musical Director between 1998 – 2002, with Paul Wharram guest conducting during 1998, and Peter Workman taking the reins as Musical Director in 2002 and 2003.

Marg Stubbington would direct the chorus at the international GALA Festival 2000 in San Jose, California.

International GALA Festival 2000. San Jose, California.
The Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus with Marg Stubbington attending the international GALA festival in San Jose, 2000.

Credit: OGMC archives

The Stage for AIDS 5: Popsicool. June 2, 2000.
The Stage for AIDS 5: Pop Si-Cool in 2000.

Credit: OGMC archives

The stage foR aids 5: pop si-cool

The chorus would share the stage with multiple Canadian artists at the NAC for “The Stage for AIDS 5: Pop Si-Cool” in 2000. The Chorus also attended the Canadian GALA Festival in Toronto in 2002 with Marg at the podium.

GALA Choruses VII International Festival, Montreal 2004.

Credit: OGMC Archives

GALA VII - MOntreal

Leith Chu took over as Musical Director in 2003 and the Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus gave its first concert at the Fourth Stage, National Arts Centre, in July, 2003. 

In 2004, Leith and the OGMC took the stage at the international GALA VII festival, this time, held close to home in Montreal.

20 Years of Song

In 2005, Steve Alexander takes the baton as Musical Director until 2007. 

In 2006, the Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus celebrates two decades as a choir with 20 Years of Song.

Steven Alexander (2005-2007)
Steven Alexander rehearses with the Chorus in the choir room.

Credit: OGMC Archives


OGMC 2009.
The OGMC pose following their spring concert in 2009.

Credit: OGMC Archives

The chorus hit a new stride in its third decade together. Joseph McEachren would take the helm in 2007 as Musical and Artistic Director, holding the role for the next thirteen years.


Despite an abated AIDS emergency and our right to marriage secured, we would continue to find cause, as much as ever, to be a voice for our community. We were still losing many friends to AIDS and we were still being harrassed in the street. We were also becoming more aware of changing needs in the community, as it too diversified. In 2009, the Chorus would again sing alongside the Ottawa Police Chorus and local queer choirs for the Pride concert Building Bridges, in an ongoing effort to bring about a greater understanding of our community by law enforcement.

The OGMC marches in the 2009 Ottawa Pride Parade.
The OGMC marches in the 2009 Ottawa Pride Parade.

Credit: OGMC Archives

A Gay Ol' Time Cabaret 3

Credit: OGMC Archives

a gay ol' time

In 2010, the OGMC attended the Unison Festival in Winnipeg. In 2011, the OGMC adopted its current logo. 

The OGMC launches the successful Gay Ol’ Time Cabaret series to showcase the musical and stage talents of chorus members and invited guests. Held at the NACs Fourth Stage, this fundraiser draws out a diverse audience and raises the profile of the OGMC in the broader community

OGMC Co-hosts UNison 2014

The OGMC co-hosts Unison Ottawa 2014 Many Voices, One Song with Tone Cluster and In Harmony in Ottawa. Over 500 delegates from 19 choirs are in attendance.

Unison Ottawa 2014. Many Voices, One Song
Longtime member Claude Dufresne and Joseph McEachren take to the airwaves to promote the OGMC and its upcoming 30th anniversary events.

30th anniversary

The OGMC would celebrate its 30th Anniversary with an open air performance by the choir and guests and picnic at Minto Park.


The Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus rekindles the popular Gay Ol’ Time Cabaret in its new home at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts in the fall of 2017.

A Gay Ol Time Cabaret 2019. St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts.
A Gay Ol'Time Cabaret 5. St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts
Public Service Pride Network Pride Event, Parliament Hill, 2018
Public Service Pride Network Pride Event, Parliament Hill, 2018

The OGMC attends Unison 2018 in Calgary, held at the beautiful Bella Concert Hall, Mount Royal University.

The same year, the OGMC was invited by the Public Service Pride Network to sing on Parliament Hill at its first Pride event for staff and guests.

The chorus was halfway through rehearsals for its 2020 spring concert when COVID struck and made the decision to hold it online. Named One Song, each piece in the final recording of the concert was assembled from multiple overlaid recordings of each member’s rendition of their part. It was released for Pride in August that year. 

Tim Piper took over as Musical Director in 2020 after having worked as the accompanist for the Chorus since 2015. The OGMC would put on two more virtual concerts, including the aptly named The Show Must Go On, keeping members engaged through the lockdown. The Chorus regrouped in fall 2021 to come together to put on A Winter Faerie holiday concert for a live audience that December. In Spring 2022, the Chorus moves into the Gladstone for OGMC Goes to the Movies.

One Song, 2020

The OGMC presents its first virtual concert in 2020.

Goes to the Movies, June 19, 2022

OGMC Goes to the Movies in its new home at the Gladstone Theatre in 2022.

The Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus attends Open Harbour – Unison Festival 2023, sending 21 delegates to join members of 22 participating LGBTQ2S+ choruses from across Canada. This was Tim Piper’s first Unison as Musical Director.

The OGMC receives a Unison Legacy award for its role in hosting the Unison Festival in Ottawa in 2014.

OGMC at TD Place - Lansdowne. For Pride Week. August, 2023

Members of the chorus sing O Canada for 20,000 spectators at Lansdowne – TD Place for their ‘All In’ Pride game, 2023.

The OGMC launches a refreshed website with a new design and new archival content.