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Local LGBT choruses to share holiday music

SAN DIEGO -- Music is one element of the holiday season that makes this time of year so magical. San Diego’s two largest LGBT-based choral groups, the San Diego Women’s Chorus (SDWC) and the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus (SDGMC), are gearing up their holiday season concerts next month, which have become a long-standing tradition for many in the community.

SDWC, which has experienced a tremendous amount of growth over the last few years, will present “Light Up The World” on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7 pm and Sunday, Dec. 8 at 5 pm at the University Christian Church in Hillcrest. The concert is a multi-cultural exploration that will give audience members the opportunity to open their hearts and minds to the pure beauty, grace and joy expressed in each piece presented.

Carin Scheinin, SDWC’s president, says that “Light Up The World” marks a return to a true holiday concert for the group, as it focuses on the importance of light in all the ways people celebrate winter holidays around the world, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, and Solstice. Selections in the program will feature a mix of music performed in English, Latin, Nigerian, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, and Hindu.

“Audience members will recognize a lot of the music in the concert, either because they grew up singing it around the holidays or because it is from a more popular music genre,” Scheinin said, noting songs like “Candlelight Carol,” “Believe” from Polar Express, “Amid the Falling Snow” by Enya, “Grown up Christmas List,” and “Carol of the Bells” will be included.

Shelly McMorrow, a member of SDWC, is also very much looking forward to the show and says the audience members is in for a treat.

"Our concert this year is rather different from our past few performances," McMorrow said. "The music is a much broader spectrum of styles, from a piece that starts like a Gregorian chant and grows into a rich tapestry of sound, to hauntingly beautiful melodies like the Iraqi Peace Song, to modern holiday songs like Grown-Up Christmas List. There's something in this concert for everyone."

She said this year's music selection has been more challenging for the singers, but most have enjoyed being pushed beyond just learning notes and to sing to evoke spirit and passion.

"Hearing the richness of 75 voices singing in unison is amazing," McMorrow said.

SDWC is also looking forward to introducing their first-ever assistant artistic director, Kathleen Hansen, who was hired in mid-October. “Light Up The World” will be Hansen’s first concert with the group.

“[Hansen] has already added so much to the chorus in her short time with us and she’ll be making her official debut with SDWC at the concerts, conducting a few pieces in the program,” Scheinin said.

Also this year, some of the youth from the Hillcrest Youth Center (HYC) will be participating in the opening song of the concert by singing and playing percussion. SDWC has been working with HYC over the past year through music workshops and inviting them to participate in rehearsals.

“This really fulfills part of our increased commitment to engage youth in the arts and in music making,” Scheinin said.

Over at SDGMC, the men are preparing for their annual holiday concert, “The Nutcracker (Men in Tights!)” to be performed Saturday, Dec. 14 at 8 pm and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 3 pm at the Balboa Theatre.

Bob Lehman, a baritone who also serves on SDGMC’s board as director of marketing, says the show brings out the kid in all of us.

“The music is magical and fun and exciting to sing, and we love it because our holiday audiences are the best – very, very festive,” he said.

Lehman said ticket holders are in for a treat, with a mixture of beautiful music, fun performances and other surprises that SDGMC audiences have come to expect.

“The first half of our show will be amazingly beautiful songs of the season with our guys decked out in tuxes. It’s holiday choral music at its best,” he said. “The second half is where the party happens and we let loose with lots of fun and craziness. We’ve got dancing mice, men in tutus and marching toy soldiers. You can’t help but leave the show with a big smile on your face and filled with the holiday spirit.”

Lehman says that while his group performs incredible music and dance, it is the fun surprises that make the concert extra special.

“I can’t wait to see my buddy Fete Sagale, who looks like a Chargers linebacker, dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy during The Nutcracker act,” Lehman said, laughing. “It will be a moment to go down in gay holiday history. There’s also an original song about San Diego politics I think will be hilarious as well.”

Lehman has been a part of the chorus for many years but says he still gets chills being on stage at each concert just before the curtain rises.

“Being together with the [chorus] guys is like being a part of one big family during the holidays,” Lehman said. “It’s an uplifting experience to have worked for months on a show then get to share it with an audience of our friends and family.”

Scheinin said the feelings are similar SDWC as they approach show time.

“There’s a lot of nervous excitement right now and really great energy as the music we’ve been working on for the last three months really comes together and becomes ready to perform for an audience,” Scheinin said. “I think chorus members know that this is a really special concert and that the music will really touch our audience.”

Tickets and additional show information

SDWC’s Dec. 7–8 concert will be performed at University Christian Church, 3900 Cleveland Ave., in Hillcrest (note this is a change from past years). Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, with discounts available for youth, seniors, military, and students. Click HERE for tickets and additional information.

SDGMC’s Dec. 14–15 concert will be performed at the historic Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave., in Downtown. Tickets range from $27–$70. A VIP pre-show reception is also available for $30 and includes hors d’oeuvres, a complimentary cocktail, and a meet and greet with the Holt, the artistic director. Tickets and additional information are HERE.