New Twist to NH Gay Men’s Chorus Concerts

By Michael Witthaus mwitthaus@hippopress.com

Every year since 1998 the New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus has performed a series of concerts. This year they invite the audience to go behind the scenes and see how the program is chosen, in an evening of music laced with theater called Putting It All Together. Luc Andre Roberge, NHG­ MC’s Artistic Director, said in a recent Zoom interview that the chorus will portray the path from brainstorming songs to turning them into a show.

Selections in the upcoming concerts include Ike & Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary,” with the slow-groove first part performed in the program’s early set and the rocked-up “nice and rough” section in the second half. The program also has “A Million Dreams” from “The Greatest Showman”, a medley from “Hamilton” and “Dear Evan Hansen”, and a song most will recognize from The Big Bang Theory, Barenaked Ladies’ “The History of Everything.”

“Let’s get the audience to experience what it’s like to put this whole thing together,” he said. This year they will again perform four shows, one each in Concord, Manchester, Nashua, and Stratham, along with several outreach shows across the state at assisted living facilities and other places.

The show closes with “Why We Sing,” a song that NHGMC President John McGeehan called ”very meaningful” during the same interview. “Even when you don’t understand someone’s language, you can still get the emotion and the feeling and the expression through their music,” he said. “There are few things out there that are like that. I think that’s a really powerful statement to leave our audience with.”

Though it’s a musical entity, NHGMC has higher aims.

“Part of our mission statement is to share the joy of music with the residents of New Hampshire, but also to be representatives of the LGBT community, give it a positive image,” McGeehan said. “I think that’s really important, especially now.”

Roberge noted that at the chorus’s first performance, some members asked that their names not be listed in the program, while others wore dark glasses or hats to obscure their identities.

“It was a very different world in 1998 than the one we live in now,” he said. “People didn’t go about telling people that they were gay. One didn’t really even come out, certainly not in the state of New Hampshire.”

Thankfully, that’s changed. The Granite State legalized same-sex marriage in 2010. In 2018 Gov. Sununu and Rep. Chris Pappas joined to celebrate NHGMC’s 20th anniversary.  Last year Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig signed a proclamation declaring New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus Day in the city.  And one recent fact in particular stands out for Roberge. “Less than half of all our concert attendees identify as gay,” he said. “That says there’s a lot of acceptance in the state.”

Roberge was a charter member of NHGMC and became Artistic Director in 2000. He co-leads the chorus with Principal Accompanist Gary Finger. Among Roberge’s memories of his tenure, the one that stands out as his favorite isn’t musical. While in his 30s, he came out to his parents, urged by fellow chorus members who thought they should see him sing a solo rendition of “Old Man River” at an upcoming concert.

Though he had a good relationship with them that included strong support for his music, Roberge worried that telling them his truth would damage it. His mother cried upon hearing the news, but not for reasons he’d feared.

‘”How many concerts did I miss?’ was her question to me,” he said. “She was so upset that she’d missed all that time–five years with the chorus at that point.”

Immediately, she and his father left the house for a series of face-to-face visits, ultimately inviting 30 friends to the concert. “And all of them came,” Roberge said. “It truly meant it was a non-issue. It was a very moving and touching experience. Not just for myself, but for the chorus, and anyone that attended that concert.”

The wonderful affirmation still makes him smile.

“I ended up, living in the state of New Hampshire, having an excellent coming out story, with an organization that believes we need to show that we are just average people,” he said. “That’s a very positive experience that I had with the chorus.”

New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus Spring Concert Series

Four shows:

Saturday, May 4, 7:30 p.m., Christ the King Lutheran Church, 3 Lutheran Drive, Nashua

Sunday, May 5, 3 p.m., Rex Theatre, 23 Amherst St., Manchester           

Saturday, May 18, 7:30 p.m., Stratham l Community Church UCC, 6 Emery Lane, l Stratham

Sunday, May 19, 3 p.m., Concord Community Music School, 23 Wall St., Concord

Tickets: $25 at eventbrite.com   

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