It’s evident that advocacy is ingrained in the fabric of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington (GMCW), and that extends to their spirited The Holiday Show at Lincoln Theatre on December 7, 14 and 15.
“When people think of the holidays, they immediately think [of] Christmas,” says tenor and soloist Abel Jimenez, who is new to the chorus. “But no, this isn’t just going to be Christmas. There’s a lot of representation acknowledging different cultures, which I am very excited [about as] a Latino. Being able to sing in my first language with a group of people who are putting forth so much effort as well is very rewarding.”
If you peruse historical images of gay men choruses around the country, you’ll notice a trend of predominantly white, middle-aged men. But through intentional programming, the GMCW’s more than 250-member group grows more and more representative as each holiday season rolls around.
“Because of our location, we sometimes have greater opportunities to fight the good fight, to be in the trenches,” proudly states Michael Aylward, a tenor and soloist in his 11th season with the GMCW.
Aylward sees his role in the chorus as one of visibility, of “not being afraid to be front and center as an out and proud gay man.”
“I think what we do is important because we are in Washington, DC,” he says. “We have a responsibility as a gay chorus to be active and visible in moments when issues relevant to the gay population around the country are being discussed.”
GMCW Artistic Director Thea Kano places emphasis on actualizing the mission of the chorus: to inspire equality and inclusion with musical performances and education promoting justice and dignity for all.
“I consider what’s going on in the world [and] in the realm of social justice,” Kano says of her process for making song selections. “Our goal is always to be sure that audiences see a version of themselves onstage.”
Incorporating diverse voices remains an important means for facilitating inclusivity in the GMCW, while also staying current with what’s hitting the airwaves.
“We always try to have a mix of new music that might have been written recently,” she continues. “[This year], we are depicting different languages. [For example], a traditional Filipino carol will be sung in Tagalog, a language of the Philippines, [accompanied by] a traditional Filipino dance.”
While the concert’s lineup features songs in up to six different languages, Kano says, “The song list is mixed up.”
“It’s sort of like DC’s weather: if you don’t care for a particular one, just wait,” she adds. “Something for you is just around the corner. There are enough traditional songs sprinkled in – a little something for everyone.”
Expect everything from a little Mariah Carey to “Lo V’chayil” to Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” and so much more. As the largest and most-often sold-out performances of the year, Kano says The Holiday Show is the easiest to program.
“There is so much good, fun music for the holidays,” she says.
Her only challenge? Ensuring that the sounds and performances are fresh and relevant. This year, the GMCW is keeping audiences on their toes with a 7-foot-tall Christmas tree in heels, among other yet-to-be-announced elements.
“People come expecting to be entertained,” she adds. “We’re known for putting on shows different from a standstill chorus.”
The artistic director’s enthusiasm is matched by Jimenez’s excitement to perform a solo in this year’s holiday concert. Not only does he feel very at home with the chorus, but his family will be at The Holiday Show to see the GMCW perform for the first time. When he first heard friends rave about the GMCW’s holiday concerts and went to see a few shows himself, he wasted no time in joining the ranks.
“You did not wait one second!” Jimenez laughs, reflecting on comments from his peers once he was named a soloist in his first concert months ago. “I wanted to jump in and do as much as I could because it’s my passion. Being a part of this community, being able to do good with my talents, it feels wonderful. I feel honored.”
Don’t miss the GMCW’s The Holiday Show at Lincoln Theatre on Saturday, December 7 at 8 p.m., Saturday, December 14 at 3 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, December 15 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25-$65. Learn more and buy tickets at www.gmcw.org.
Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; 202-888-0050; www.thelincolndc.com