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Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus concert gets personal

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Photo courtesy of Buffalo Rising
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By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-908225.mp3

Buffalo, NY – It's been nearly ten years since the Buffalo Gay Men's Chorus was formed. Over the last decade they've performed everything from classical music to pop favorites. But the theme of this weekend's concerts gets personal for the group. The concert program, "Once Upon a Time," will tell the story of the life of a gay man.

They make it sound easy. But 71 voices hitting and sustaining one note is no small feat. They've had a lot of practice. Many of the men have been around for all of the chorus' ten-year history. But it's not always been easy.

Barbara Wagner is artistic director for the chorus. She describes herself as a kind of grandmother for the group. She is not gay. But Wagner says she's come to deeply understand the issues her chorus members face as gay men.

"Some of the stories I heard break my heart," Wagner said. "I feel that I can be there as somebody to talk to."

It was Wagner's idea to do a concert that would help people better understand what it's like for a man to grow up gay. And the chorus trusted her to pick the music that would tell the story. Christopher Babbitt is a long-time chorus member and board president. He says they're grateful for Wagner's guidance. Babbitt says, even though it's their story, facing it isn't always easy.

"I came out of the closet when I was 21," Babbitt said. "There was no denying it."

The music selections take the audience through the journey of a gay person, from the time he is born to the moment of realization, and finally, acceptance of his sexuality. The songs are not specifically about gay people. Instead, Wagner, the artistic director, chose songs that translate themes of family and friendship, loneliness and love.

At the concert, each chorus member will wear specially crafted stoles that tell their individual stories. And Babbitt says sometimes coming out isn't as painful as feared.

The concert celebrates the joy of those and other happy moments in a gay man's life. Babbitt says they have a little fun with stereotypes too. He says it's time for the chorus to sing out boldly about who they are. He says it brings them a lot of hope - and a lot of promise.

The chorus believes this concert could be one way to begin changing hearts and minds.

The Buffalo Gay Men's chorus performs at 8pm Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Buffalo. They repeat the concert tomorrow night at the First Presbyterian Church in Buffalo and again at 4pm Sunday at the Orchard Park Presbyterian Church.

Click the audio player above to hear Joyce Kryszak's story now or use your podcasting software to download it to your computer or iPod.