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HISTORY

Discover about our rich history

Explore our journey

Honoring those we've lost

 
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GMCLA'S STORY

It was a hot July evening in 1979.  A small group of men opened the doors to a room at the Plummer Park Community Center in Los Angeles (now West Hollywood), waiting and wondering if anybody would show up. They had posted flyers around the neighborhood announcing the formation of a new gay chorus and this night was to be its first rehearsal. To their great surprise, 99 men appeared and a chorus was born. Within three months of that rehearsal, founding director Harold Kjellberg led the group through its first major event: the March on Washington, D.C. and the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) concert at the Washington Memorial.

 

While public understanding of gay life has evolved much since 1979, there is still fierce resistance to lasting change by opponents to LGBT equality. And the road to today has not always been easy. Through the height of the AIDS crisis, the Chorus lost over 150 members. Only a few original members remain. As a result, GMCLA has a deep history of service within the LGBT community, singing at countless memorials, making and commissioning music that helps the community to mourn, to celebrate, to dream, and to prepare for victory.

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For over 40 years, the Chorus has built an international reputation for musical excellence while remaining deeply rooted in service to the Los Angeles community. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the last important links to a glorious tradition in music,” GMCLA has more than doubled in size to over 300 members, added professional and artistic staff, toured nationally and internationally, released fifteen CD’s, commissioned more than 300 new works and arrangements and appeared frequently on national television. The Chorus membership donates over 60,000 volunteer hours annually to make GMCLA’s mission of musical excellence and community partnership a reality.

 

 This remarkable compilation by GMCLA Alumni Russ Bickers highlights the group’s participation at the first March on Washington on October 14, 1979. The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights drew between 75,000 and 125,000 gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, and straight allies to demand equal civil rights and urge the passage of protective civil rights legislation.

 

TIMELINE

1979

Ninety-nine gay men assemble in July at West Hollywood’s Plummer Park to form GMCLA.

1980

GMCLA incorporates with assistance from AT&T.

JULY 12

First performance at Hollywood High School, where the newly formed group made a cameo appearance as part of the Great American Freedom Band’s concert.

1979

SEPTEMBER 8

GMCLA participates in the first festival of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA), of which GMCLA is a founding member.

1982

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1984

GMCLA litigates and successfully prevents attempts to quash the word ‘Gay’ from its title and promotional material with the American Choral Directors Association, and in its Whitepages telephone listing with Pacific Bell.

1989

GMCLA becomes the first business in West Hollywood with the word ‘Gay’ on its street sign.

-1986

GMCLA feels the devastating loss of the HIV/AIDS epidemic by losing its revered musical director, Jerry Carlson. Ultimately, over 150 members of the chorus succumbed to the disease. Dr. Jon Bailey becomes the third Artistic Director of GMCLA.

1987

GMCLA becomes the first gay men’s U.S. chorus to tour Central Europe. Concerts were performed in Copenhagen – Denmark, Berlin – Germany, Prague – Czechoslovakia (prior to the country separating into two), Vienna – Austria, and Budapest – Hungary. Featured in a documentary entitled “Out Loud” which aired on PBS.

1991

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1994

GMCLA performs in New York City’s Carnegie Hall for the 25th Stonewall Anniversary.

1997

Vox Femina’s debut performance as a special guest at GMCLA’s “Naked Man” concert.

GMCLA releases two CDs: “Songs of Love” and its first holiday CD “Don We Now…”

1996

GMCLA becomes first gay men’s chorus ever to perform for a sitting President of the United States – Bill Clinton. GMCLA launches second international tour and is broadcast on Russian television. Concerts were performed in Moscow and St. Petersburg – Russia, Helsinki – Finland, Tallinn – Estonia, and Berlin.

1999

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2002

Dr. Jon Bailey resigns as Artistic Director after 14 seasons and welcomes Dr. Bruce Mayhall as GMCLA’s fourth Artistic Director. GMCLA appears on NBC’s “Will & Grace.”

2005

GMCLA performs for Sir Elton John at Society of Singers event.

GMCLA appears on HBO’s “Six Feet Under.”

2003

GMCLA becomes the first openly gay chorus to tour South America, raising money for LGBT and HIV organizations. Concerts were performed in Santiago – Chile, Buenos Aires – Argentina, Montevideo – Uruguay, and Rio de Janeiro – Brazil. GMCLA helps begin first South American gay chorus in Rio de Janeiro.

2006

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2007

GMCLA’s Alive Music Project gives debut performance at La Canada High School.

2011

GMCLA welcomes E. Jason Armstrong as the fifth Artistic Director.  His first ‘gig’ is our performance for President Barack Obama at a West Hollywood fundraiser!

GMCLA records video as part of it gets better campaign in support of LGBT teens. Video goes viral, reaching over 800,000 views.

2010

Season 34 becomes GMCLA’s most successful season yet, with dazzling concerts; special guests Stephen Schwartz and Liz Callaway; launch of the It Gets Better national tour, Outside Voices Youth Chorus; and a performance on the 85th Annual Academy Awards.

2012

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2013

GMCLA performs the national anthem with Amber Riley for Dodger Stadium’s first LGBT night.

2015

The it gets better Tour travels extensively with week long residencies in Ohio, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Colorado.

Dr. Joe Nadeau is welcomed as GMCLA’s new Artistic Director.

2013

FALL

Members of GMCLA travel to Cuba to meet Mano a Mano and become familiar with Cuban culture – in preparation for June’s concert Oye Mi Canto,  featuring the men of Mano a Mano.

2016

MARCH
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2016

APRIL

The fifth annual Voice Awards is held at the Dolby Ballroom Hollywood, supporting GMCLA’s Alive Music Project, and it gets better Tour.

2017

JULY

I Rise: Performing at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in ‘I Rise’,  a groundbreaking concert that explores the intersection of Faith and the LGBTQ communities. A collaboration with 27 Los Angeles based faith groups, performers number more than 400 on the concert hall stage.  Guest artists include Holly Near, and Breanna Sinclaire.

GMCLA begins a collaboration with Arts for Incarcerated Youth

2016

SPRING
 

LEGACY

IN MEMORIUM

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Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles stands on the shoulders of its members who have passed on.  Prior to 1995 the chorus witnessed the loss of over 150 members due to complications of HIV/AIDS.  Sadly, at the peak of the plague the chorus was performing at a memorial service for one of our members about every three weeks.  GMCLA honors and celebrates those men who contributed so much to our vocal community, and moved on.

We are very pleased to include First Nighter Russ Bicker’s archive. Russ was active in the Chorus from 1979 through 1996, and has curated a remarkable visual history of many of GMCLA’s past members. Access his In Memoriam archive below.

Vince Acosta

Elizabeth Ashe

Mark Ashland

David Backus

Alec Bao

Eric Barnes

Richard Barnes

Michael Benbrook

Doug Bender

Frank Bert

Bruce Berube

Milt Bienhoff

Richard Bobb

Scott Brahm

Andy Brewer

Rob Brossman

George Brown

Bob Brunelle

John Buck

Larry Burnside

Robert Burton

Max Butler

Rhonda Bye

Allen Byers

Bill Caldwell

Jeffery Carillon

Jerry Carlson

Paul Caruso

Carlton Chamberlain

Wayne Chiu

Kevin L. Christensen

Don Cizek

Marc Colburn

Douglas Collie

Dale Conrad

Peter Corrallo

John Cox

Jay Crawford

Bill Christer

Ed Cross

Robert Cross

Bob Daggett

Ken Dahlstrom

Michael Daniels

Justen Dardis

Dennis Dauth

Rick Delia

Larry Doran 

Larry Drane

Richard Dupaix

Maurice Jay Durall

Ryan Ehrmantraut

Victor Eleftherakis 

Richard Ellison

Jim Ensey 

Steve Erenberg

Jim Farmer

Brian Fitzpatrick

Michael Fitzroy

Tom Fleming

Donald Lee Fleeman

Ken Floryanowich

Shawn Foreman

James Foster

David Frandsen

Jack Frost

Marty Gabrelow

Ric Garretson

Timm Georgiades

Daniel Gonzalez

Daryn-Reid Goodall

John Goodpasture

Dominic Gregorio

Danny Grant

Richard Green

Tom Greenan

Chas Greene

Frank Javier Gutierrez

Gary Haber

Donald Ham

Lonnie Hamm

Preston Hampton, Jr.

Allen Hamsher

Dennis Haney

Bill Hanko

Mike Heald

Loren Henderson

James Herbig

Ron Herrera

David Hirsch

David Holden

Jim Holman

Dale Holland

Marty Holmes

Paul Holt

Tristan Hooper

Don Hufield

Darlene Icely

Pat Ide

David Johnson

Jay Jolley

Russell Joubert

Don Kebo

David Keith

Brett Kelly

Harold Kjellberg

Bruce Krueger

Jeff Kurtzman

Hank Kuznkowski

Michael Langer

Don LaPane

Eric Lassiter

Carlos Leon

Larry Lewis

Scott Lewis

Wayne Love 

Carl Mabs

John Mackintosh

Chris Maher

Jeff Manus

Keith Markin

Rod McCrory

Ken McDonald

Burley McElwain

Bruce McGregor

Warren Meek

Steven Menzies

Robert Michaelson

Gordon Miller

Larry Mills

Lynn Miner

Earl Montgomery

Tad Montgomery

Jeff Moore

Glen Morgan

John Morgan

Mark Munson

Jack Neddy

Trip Newcomer

Don Neumeyer

Lance J. Olson

Ray Opletz

Garry Osborne

Mark D. Owen

Kaipo Paakaula

Steve Palmer

Frank Parisen

David Parrish

Ralph Perez

Shane Pierce

David Pilger

Kevin Pobst

Ernie Potvin

John Poynter

Dexter Pounders

Jon Radulovich

Gerry Ramminger

Peter Reyes

Paul Rios

David Rivera

Arthur Robbins

Sam Roberts

Vince Romano

David Romero

James Rice Russell

Johnny Saltzstein

Steven Sawyer

Dean Schroeder

Matt Scott

Larry Shuffield

Herb Sisson

Don Slate

Stephen Smith

Steve Smith

Eric Tiffany

Shayne Smyth

Dick Sommers

Lynn Speicher

Ronn St. Pierre

Michael Steffan

Scott Stewart

Jim Stenstrom

Randy Stewart

David Strahern

Rob Straube

Paul Sylvester

Jack Tamashunas

Dan Terrell

Jason Thomas

Jack Torres

William E. Trusten

David Trutanich

Phil Tuggle

John Turechek

Richard Valenzuela

Lesesne Van Antwerp

Thomas Van Deusen

Richard A. Verdugo

Garrett Voorhees

Howard Wan

Thomas Warbeck

Al Wayne

Rob Webb

Keith Weber

Mark Weber

George Charles Weiss

Ben Wetbrook

Walt Westman

Chuck White

Ken Wiederhold

Fred Wietersen

George Wilcox

Gary Wilson

Lewis Yagow

Randy Young