Santa Barbara gay men’s choir gears up for first-ever concert
Keep your ears tuned and your heart open – we’ve got a new Gay Men’s Chorus in town, and they’re getting ready to put on a show.
Led by UCSB Choral Music Director Nicole Lamartine, whose experience as a conductor spans nationally and internationally, the Santa Barbara Gay Men’s Chorus (SBGMC) is a group tenors, which means it’s made up of people with lower, deeper voices. And I say “people” intentionally. Despite its name, the SBGMC is inclusive and welcomes anyone who can play a tenor, baritone or bass tune.
I have always loved music. I was one of the first of my high school friends to get their driver’s license, and it made me dizzy to refuse to move the car until my passengers sang along with me. But I don’t think I can say that I was ever good at singing. I absolutely loved watching people do their best to follow Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” as we drove with the windows down.
When I heard about the new men’s choir, I considered joining it, but I was admittedly a little worried. But one thing Nicole and board member and singer Bob Nieder really point out for the curious is that this is an audition-less choir. So if you’re like me and have always wanted to learn to sing but are also anxious about bombing an audition, you don’t have to worry. Bob described Nicole as “the most inviting and welcoming person…. She is the most patient of teachers. After our conversation, I couldn’t shake the curiosity, so I figured a night of embarrassment wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me, and I went.
Anyone who loves music knows the visceral power of notes, and how sometimes that is all you need to get through a tough time. Even though you can never see it, you can smell it. The day I went, it was truly a spectacle to listen to as, one by one, the voices joined in until the whole room was buzzing, and you could feel your own voice echoing in your chest. . “I was literally made to cry by the physical sensation of people singing together in a room,” Bob recalls of the group’s first meeting after the lockdown. I really understand how moved he was so deeply. We’ve all had to contend with the form of our own loneliness in recent years, and the music helps sand the edges.
For me, trying to learn to read music and sing it at the same time made my head spin. Towards the end of my first session, however, I felt like I had started to understand some things, and I have to say that it’s nice to be able to learn something new. Mainly to learn and apply what I learn in the same window of time. Some of the more experienced members of the choir answered all of my questions and made me feel much more comfortable singing than when I first arrived.
Rehearsals will be held at the First United Methodist Church at 305 East Anapamu Street on Mondays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m. for early risers). Although the official position of the Methodist Church is that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings, First United has visibly aligned itself with LGBTQIA + by painting their doors in a rainbow pattern, and the SBGMC has was adopted by First United, which “shows the way that Christianity should be practiced,” Bob told me. He was raised in Roman Catholicism and grew up feeling that there was no room for him in the church, but he wanted to assure anyone who might have negative feelings about entering a church that the SBGMC will provide them with a comfortable experience.
The SBGMC is preparing for its first-ever recital at First United Methodist Church on Monday, December 13.