Orlando Gay Chorus celebrates 20 years

Orlando Gay Chorus celebrates 20 years

Two decades ago, the LGBT community of Central Florida wasn’t looked upon with respect from the greater population. The HIV/AIDS epidemic was at its peak in Central Florida and LGBT equality seemed like something out of a science fiction novel.

But on Valentine’s Day 1990, nearly 40 Central Floridians embarked on an artistic journey to start one of Orlando’s most entertaining and talented singing groups—the Orlando Gay Chorus.

Matt La Victoire, Outreach Coordinator and baritone, remembers a very different climate when the organization began in 1990.

“When we started out we really faced some discrimination and some really bad feelings from a lot of the public,” La Victoire says.


Nonetheless, starting a gay chorus in Orlando was a bold statement, which demonstrated the group’s determination to become a viable part of the overall community as well as a forceful part of Central Florida arts.

Dan Jones, President of the Board of Directors for the Orlando Gay Chorus says the organization started with a case of the jitters, yet with a strong vision that sought to change attitudes and images through music.

Jim Brown, Artistic Director of the Orlando Gay Chorus dually serves the University of Central Florida’s Conservatory Theatre as an instructor and musical theatre specialist. Brown holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts from in Musical Theatre Performance from the School of Performing and Visual Arts at United States International University in San Diego. He also has a Masters of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre Performance from San Diego State University. With over 25 years of performance experience and service to various charitable outreach organizations, Brown’s direction helps bring out the absolute best in OGC’s members.

The chorus has a style that engulfs a little bit of every type of music. As a special treat for attendees of the anniversary celebration, the chorus will give a little bit of flavor that has been a part of the chorus over the past twenty years.

“We are also doing some Broadway show tunes and some pop songs,” Jones says. “We have a Donna Summer medley and we also have some original compositions that were done for us a few years ago in memory of Matthew Shepard as well as very contemporary modern music.”

Former members of the chorus will take the stage along with current members to commemorate the milestone.

Jones is committed to helping the chorus maintain the ground they have made in terms of support and members over the past two decades. Although support comes in various forms, financial commitments are getting even harder to come by for artistic-based organizations.

“Donations to the arts are down about 25% over the last few years and that hits us hard,” Jones says. “We obviously depend on donor support to do what we do.”

The chorus is open to both males and females regardless of sexual orientation. La Victoire would love to add more female members.

“Any adult can join,” La Victoire says. “We do have special conditions where we can accept 16- and 17-year-olds. You just need to be able to carry a tune and match a pitch and come to rehearsals.”

Auditions are held in January, March, April and August. Right now there are almost 100 members.

Jones says that once a member joins, he or she finds that the chorus is a unique family.
OCG is a rarity among gay choruses. It has one of the highest rates of original chorus members after 20 years.

“It really and truly is a family,” Jones says. “We all love each other and there are times when we don’t like each other but we still love each other because we are a family.

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