Arts and Humanities
2:32 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

If You Wanna Sing Out: Louisville LGBT Choir Stages Inclusive Holiday Show

Voices of Kentuckiana is not your average community choir. Founded in 1994, the choir was established as an LGBT choir that welcomes all. Not only does the ensemble not require auditions, they emphasize that ability (even musical) is a spectrum. 

"We are inclusive of anyone in the community – gay, straight, transgendered, supportive others. We are open to absolutely anyone, regardless of musical ability and lifestyle choices," says co-director Alyse Oliver, who has performed with the choir since 1998. 

That means, hey -- if you want to wear the tux on show day, wear the tux. If you prefer the dress, go for it.

"You’re free to pick and choose that," says Oliver. "We have had men sing in the alto section and women represented in the tenor section."

The group's inclusivity extends to what is often the most traditional of choral programs: the annual holiday show. Even the theme of this year's concert, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," winks at expectations by referencing a seductive pop song that's more naughty than nice. 

The group performs Friday and Sunday, 7 p.m., at the Clifton Center. 

One number, "Furaha!," is sung in Swahili. Conrad Susa's "Campana sobre Campana," an Andalusian bell carol, will be sung in Spanish, with each vocal section portraying a different type of bell. Then there's a Celtic-flavored "Silent Night," a few jazz-swing numbers, and even a Charlie Brown Christmas medley. 

"You know, some people love the traditional Christmas concert. Some people don’t. Some people like something fun and upbeat and jazzy. Some people feel very strongly about honoring international religions," says Oliver. "So what we try to do is pick a little bit of everything."

Going into their 20th season, Oliver says Voices, which has about 35 active members this season, has continued to revisit its mission. LGBT choirs exist across the country, many inspired by the now-famous San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, which formed in 1978 and gave their first impromptu performance on the night Harvey Milk, the city's first openly-gay elected official, was killed.  Are LGBT choirs still as vital of a political and community-building tool now, in the age of impending marriage equality, as they once were?  Oliver says for her, it's still an intensely personal affiliation.

"Voices was started to provide a safe place for gays and lesbians and supportive others to have a place to sing," she says. "It started as that – this is a safe place for me, and for people with a love of music. And through the years, as you find your safe place, they turn into your family. For so many people, even in becoming more accepted in the general community, it can still be hard finding acceptance among one’s own family."

"Voices still acts as a family and a supportive base for anyone," she adds. "Regardless of musical ability, this is a place you can go and we can be your family. Some people just don’t have that anymore." 

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