This year marks the 25th anniversary season of the Capital City Men’s Chorus (CCMA) in Austin, a choir whose mission is to unite the diverse experiences of gay men and their allies through song.

The chorus was founded in 1989, a few years after Dallas’ Turtle Creek Chorale, Dallas’ men’s choir, performed when the AIDS Memorial Quilt was brought to Austin.

Scott Poppaw, Marketing Director of the chorus, noted that most major U.S. cities had an all men’s chorus about the time CCMC was founded.

“We were losing friends, lovers, and family members by the hundreds to AIDS,” Poppaw said. “Music and the fellowship of others who were experiencing that same sense of loss, provided an outlet for that grief for a lot of men. As a matter of fact, we sang at more memorials than concerts for many years after the group’s formation.”

Karl Logue, accompanist for the chorus, has been a member since the very beginning. He remembers that it was at the funeral of a mutual friend who had died of AIDS that David Weigle first approached him about participating, and their first rehearsal was six weeks later.

Logue said he could play for any classical music group, but he chooses to stay with the chorus because “no other group can do” what they do. Logue said that several members were lost to AIDS in the early years of the chorus, and that the camaraderie and support the men provide for one another is one of the hallmarks of the chorus. Logue also said that participation in the chorus is a transformative experience for many members, who might have a fear of being acknowledged in public without the safe space chorus membership provides.

While many members of the chorus are gay, any interested male-identified individual is invited to participate. Regardless of sexual orientation, all chorus members must support the mission and vision of the chorus.

CCMC is a member of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA). According to their website, GALA leads the North American LGBT choral movement with over 170 member choruses. Poppaw said that in addition to providing guidance to the founders of CCMC, GALA was and has continued to be “a resource for non-profit board member training,” as well as providing “regular workshops and festivals for staff and chorus members.”

“It’s also an excellent way to network with other choruses,” Poppaw said.

Jimmy Hickey is in his second year of membership with CCMC. An elementary music teacher by trade, Hickey said that he wanted to sing in a choral setting and add to the quality of the fine arts in Austin. He joined CCMC as a creative outlet, as well as for camaraderie and to impact his local community. He says he “fell in love” with CCMC and hasn’t missed a rehearsal since he joined.

“I can see myself involved for years to come,” Hickey said.

Hickey said that everyone is welcome at the chorus, regardless of musical ability, citing that while some members have musical degrees, others cannot read music. Hickey said any male-identified individuals in Austin should consider joining the chorus if they are interested in meeting new friends and making good music together.

The chorus holds open auditions twice annually, at the beginning of each concert cycle. The next open auditions will be held this January, and will be announced on both Facebook and Twitter@CCMCaustinTX.

CCMC has been dedicated to community participation since its inception, performing at the inauguration of Gov. Anne Richards as well as the Travis County Republican Party Convention of 1991.

True to its roots, CCMC continues to participate in community outreach. In September, the chorus performed in conjunction with The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles for the “It Gets Better Campaign” at the Long Center in Austin. They are also set to sing the national anthem again this year before the Austin AIDS walk, which is held Oct. 20 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Republic Square Park.

CCMC will host their annual Fall Benefit Fundraiser Concert Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Austin. Tickets can be purchased online, through any chorus member or at the door. All proceeds go to benefit the operating budget of the chorus. The silver anniversary season of CCMC will continue with the annual holiday concert, “Silver Memories” held Dec. 7 through 8 at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church.

“Why Austin?” Poppaw said, “Austin is the live music capital of the world, so, why not Austin!”

For more information regarding the Capital City Men’s Chorus, visit their website.

This article was originally published by The Horn on 10/08/2013.

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