Heartland Men's Chorus
- Existence: 1986
The Heartland Men’s Chorus was founded in 1986, with the goals of “Provid[ing] excellence in performance while advancing men’s choral music, building community, and reaching out to diverse audiences.” The Chorus was first led by Father Ambrose Karels, and performed for the first time on December 14, 1986, with only 30 members, and under co-directors Randell Stewart and Stephen Johnson. Gina Scaggs Epifano, the first woman to ever conduct a men’s chorus as a GALA Choruses director, was also the first person to hold a paid director’s position at the HMC. Reuben M. Reynolds, III directed the Chorus from 1990 to 1998, when Joseph P. Nadeau took over as Artistic Director, a post he continues to hold to this day. Rick Fisher has been Executive Director of the HMC since 1997, overseeing day-to-day operations along with HeartLight, a devoted group of volunteers who provide invaluable support.
Throughout its 25+ years of existence, the Heartland Men’s Chorus has performed extensively in the Kansas City area, throughout Missouri and Kansas, and in such diverse places as, Chicago, Washington D.C., Dallas, Portland, London, Paris, and Hamburg. The Chorus has also sung regularly at festivals of GALA Choruses Inc. (Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses), in cities such as Denver, Tampa, San Jose, Miami, and Montreal. The HMC was honored in 1998 to receive the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Award, “for its outstanding achievements as an arts organization and for its highly visible presence in the Kansas City gay and lesbian community.” By supporting and helping raise money for AIDS awareness, Harmony in a World of Difference events, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer foundation, the HMC has been proven a strong positive influence on efforts towards equality and health.
Commissioning new compositions and arrangements has also been an important priority of the Heartland Men’s Chorus. Local composer Mark Hayes’ large work Two Flutes Playing was premiered in 2002, and Country Angel Christmas, based on the Children’s story by Tomie dePaola, with music by Alan Shorter, was premiered in 2003. Along with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, the HMC co-commissioned Life is a Cabaret, based on the works of John Kander and Fred Ebb in 2005, and along with other GALA Choruses co-commissioned Oliver Button is a Sissy, based on a Tomie dePaola story. HMC concerts have also featured arrangements by Eric Lane Barnes, Mark Hayes, Scott Farthing, and Paul Siskind.
Having come a long way since the 30-member troupe of 1986, the Heartland Men’s Chorus continues to thrive and work towards its goal, to “enlighten, inspire, heal, and empower” through music.
Source: Compiled from Paul Backer’s History of the Heartland Men’s Chorus on their website: http://hmckc.org/history/.