Since 1986

Our First Decade

1986-1996

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

IN MEMORIAM

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!