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Night Howl
By Karen Reardanz

[whitespace] Sally Gray, Susan Parrish, Claire Moore and Jim Kotaska Music for the Masses: Sally Gray (clockwise from left), Susan Parrish, Claire Moore and Jim Kotaska, of the Lesbian and Gay Chorus, head for the Mello Center for their show on Saturday.

A Chorus Line:
Santa Cruz's chorus of gay and lesbian crooners mix imagination, performance and the love of a good tune

IF SOMEONE HAD TOLD THE DOZEN STRANGERS who responded to an ad seeking members for a gay and lesbian choir that one day they'd be headlining their own shows, chances are they would have shaken a collective head in disbelief. But the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of Santa Cruz has come a long way since its shaky conception in a church rec room five years ago.

"We didn't have any music, instruments or anything when we started--we were so naive," remembers Claire Moore, chorus member and this year's publicity chair. "At the beginning, we even had about 19 lesbians and only one man. For the first year we joked and called it the Lesbian and Jim Chorus."

Now in its fifth year, the 40-voice-strong (and now vocally balanced) chorus celebrates its fruitful history with a concert that's part of the Henry J. Mello Center's annual Summer on Stage Series. The show, titled "Imagine," is an eclectic mix of classical, pop, rock and jazz tunes that capture the spirit of imagination and inspiration.

"We started talking about freedom concepts--with the show occurring during Gay Pride Month--and found it to be a limiting term," Moore says. "Imagine is more open-ended than freedom. Plus, we didn't want people thinking the show would be a throwback to the '60s, and we'd be doing only protest songs."

Instead, "Imagine" is chock-full of musical numbers about possibilities, hope and optimism. The chorus chose tunes like "High Hopes," "Down by the Riverside" and "Colors of Colorado," a gay-pride ditty it performed at last May's Gay Evening in May. But perhaps the most unique offering is a version of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, "Ode to Joy," with lyrics rewritten by choral member Sharon Hoyenga.

"We had sort of an informal contest to see who could come up with new lyrics that fit the chorus," Moore says. "The new version turned out really well."

This show also marks the Gay and Lesbian Chorus' debut as a self-described "mature" ensemble. It's blossomed from a fledgling batch of would-be singers into a commanding chorus that combines humor, performance flair and a distinct appreciation of music. But most importantly, they now have an amazing sense of community. As Moore reflects, "Every time we start off a season, new people come in, and we start from scratch. But we always become a cohesive unit. It's an amazing thing--it's tremendous to see that kind of growth every year."

The Gay and Lesbian Chorus performs Saturday (8pm) at the Henry J. Mello Center, East Beach and Lincoln streets, Watsonville. Tickets cost $8/$7. For more info on the show, call 763-4047. Interested in becoming a member? Call director Suzanne Duvall at 423-4023 for audition information.


New Music Works and Tandy Beal & Company team up for Le Creation du Monde, an invigorating night of dance and music, on Friday at the Mello Center. ... Erich J. Holden leads an evening of psychedelic wordplay along with Nyshka, Lisa Radon, Kaya and others at What Is Art? on June 26. ... Singer Noe Venable, Paul Sprawl and Mark Growden perform at Kuumbwa on June 27, and Dan Bern returns to the Santa Cruz venue on July 11.

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From the June 18-24, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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