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Do Good: West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus creates change -- one voice at a time

Who doesn’t enjoy a nice, warm atmosphere on a cold winter evening?
Dr. Patrick Coyle

WMGMC works to develop a positive relationship between the citizens of West Michigan and the gay cultural community through excellence in performance.
Music lovers, take note: On Saturday, February 15, Cabaret and Valentine’s Day go hand in glove to bring you West Michigan Gay Men’s Chorus’s big fundraiser, ‘Leather & Lace, a Valentine’s Ball.’ It all happens at the new West Michigan Caterer and Banquet Center, 3075 – 28th St. SW in Grandville.

Tickets cost $60 each and are tax-deductible. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. with dancing, cocktails, and an auction. Attendees will also enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres, a cabaret show featuring Kelly Carey, and dessert.

Proceeds will go toward fulfilling nonprofit WMGMC’s goal of continuing community outreach and advocating for social justice.

“Our group works to develop a positive relationship between the citizens of West Michigan and the gay cultural community through excellence in performance,” says Dr. Patrick Coyle, WMGMC’s executive director since March 2013. Coyle is responsible for the organization’s daily operations and fundraising.

Now in its sixth year, the chorus comprises 40 men and a woman. The group is all-inclusive, and there are no tryouts.

“We’re a very open group,” Coyle says, “no matter your age, social status, experience level, gender, or orientation. All are welcome.”

The group is one of the longest continually running LGBT organizations in West Michigan. WMGMC’s music has a track record of changing minds, hearts, and lives. And that’s a fact.

The magic of music
First, a brief pause for a learning moment: The word ‘music’ derives from the Greek word μουσικης, which described any art over which the Muses presided (especially poetry sung to music). Source.

“Music has an incredible, magical power to change the way people see and feel things,” says Coyle. By way of example, he shares this story: The father of a gay man attended one of WMGMC’s concerts. He had been estranged from his son for a number of years.

“It was a fluke that [the father] attended,” says Coyle. “A neighbor had an extra ticket, so the father tagged along. He was so moved by the music that he called his son that night, and they got together.” Father and son have since repaired their relationship.

Coyle says that instances like this are not at all uncommon. “There are singers who aren’t entirely ‘out’ and the chorus rehearsal is their one safe place for a couple of hours a week,” says Coyle. “We feel it’s an amazing gift to the gay community to provide a place for singers to feel valued for who they are. They don’t have to hide or lie during those few hours each week.”

There’s more work to it than meets the eye
Putting together and sustaining a chorus requires a lot of work. There are three paid staff members: Coyle and two others. Thousands of volunteer hours each year go into making the organization successful -- indeed, the board and committee work is entirely volunteer-driven.

Coyle, a native of South Carolina, came to Michigan by way of Cincinnati, Ohio. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with a minor in Arts Administration. He served in the Cincinnati Men’s Chorus for 16 years, first as conductor and then as managing artistic director. He lives in Saugatuck with his partner, Dr. Gregory Frey, and their two Labrador retrievers, Harley and Toby.

Founded in 2008, the West Michigan Gay Men's Chorus is a nonprofit GALA Chorus. Their music spans a spectrum of styles and genres, and they strive to expand and develop chorus quality, membership, and magnitude.

Rehearsals are currently held on Wednesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at (First) Congregational Church, United Church of Christ at 10 East Park Place NE. Donations, membership, or performance information may be obtained by emailing: info@wmgmc.org.

Other upcoming WMGMC events include their Spring Concert at the Wealthy Street Theatre on Saturday, March 22, 2014, and the WMGMC First Ever Gay Pride Concert, also at the Wealthy Street Theatre on Friday, June 27, 2014.

Get involved:
- Buy a ticket for Leather & Lace. Tickets are available at the Apartment Lounge, 33 Sheldon NE in Grand Rapids, by calling 616.319.1221, or online.
- Invite the WMGMC to perform for your organization or sponsor a performance.
- Get added to their mailing list.
- Donate.

Victoria Mullen is the Do Good editor for Rapid Growth.
Photography by Adam Bird.

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