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History

GALA Choruses, Inc. was incorporated on July 26, 1983 and is now the leading association committed to serving the GLBT choral movement. Our beginnings can be traced back to 1975 with formation of Philadelphia’s Anna Crusis Women's Choir, followed in rapid succession by the formation the Stonewall Chorale, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, and choruses in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Vancouver and other cities. Today, there are over 180 member choruses located throughout North America, Europe, South America, Africa, and Australia.

Milestones

1975 - Anna Crusis Women's Choir, GALA Choruses' most-tenured member chorus, formed in Philadelphia.

1977 - The Gotham Male Chorus formed in December, specializing in Gregorian chant and Renaissance music. In 1979, women joined the chorus for the first time, and the name was changed to Stonewall Chorale, the nation's first lesbian and gay chorus.

1978 - San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus was established, the first chorus to include the word "gay" in its name.

1979-81 - Choruses formed in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and other cities.

1981 - San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus went on tour, visiting 12 cities around the country. The tour inspired the formation of many new lesbian and gay choruses. Representatives of 12 choruses met in Chicago to discuss mutual concerns relevant to their being gay/lesbian choruses. GALA Performing Arts was tentatively formed.

1982 - Gay Games I: 14 Choruses met in San Francisco for the First West Coast Choral Festival. This event led to the permanent establishment of the GALA Choruses Network. The name was changed to GALA Choruses; Jay Davidson, San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, led the effort to obtain 501(c)(3) status.

1983 - COAST (Come Out and Sing Together) brought together 1,200 individuals from 12 choruses from around the US for the first National Gay and Lesbian Choral Festival. Composers Libby Larson and Ned Rorem were among those commissioned to write pieces for the Festival, and Gregg Smith served as guest conductor. The first Leadership Conference followed the Festival. Jay Davidson, San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, was elected President. GALA Membership included 39 choruses.

1984 - Leadership Conference in Denver. Annual revenues were $2,897, operating expenses were $2,201. Gary Miller, New York City Gay Men's Chorus, was elected President.

1985 - Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. Membership reached 40 choruses. GALA Board established a special fund to help leaders from women's choruses participate.

1986 - Festival and Conference in Minneapolis. Libby Larson and John David Earnest were among those commissioned to write mass choral works; Phillip Brunelle served as Guest Conductor. Sid Galton, Portland Gay Men's Chorus, was elected President. Membership reached 45 choruses. Annual revenues were $5,209 and expenses were $901.

1987 - Leadership Conference in Vancouver. Membership reached 50 choruses.

1988 - Leadership Conference in Rochester, NY. Rich Geraghty, Denver Gay Men's Chorus, elected President. Membership reached 55 choruses.

1989 - Festival and Conference in Seattle. Conrad Susa, Paul Patterson, Janice Gitek, Holly Near, and Bernice Johnson Reagon were commissioned to write works for the Festival. Margaret Hawkins and Vance George served as Guest Conductors. Helen Speegle, Denver Women's Chorus, elected President. Membership reached 62 choruses. Annual income was $15,829, with expenses of $14,420.

1990 - Leadership Conference in Chicago. Membership reached 85 choruses. GALA Board established Administrative Director position to help keep pace with the growth of the organization and Rich Geraghty became the first Administrative Director. First edition of the GALA Chorus Handbook was published.

1991 - Leadership Conference in San Diego. Membership reached 102 choruses. First edition of Commissioned Works of GALA Choruses published.

1992 - GALA Choruses Festival IV brings 64 choruses to Denver. 3,400 delegates took the stage to participate in one or more of 150 Festival concerts. New works by composers John Michael-Albert, Bill Cutter, Gary Simmons, Alan Stringer, Karen A. Tarlow, Martin Wesley-Smith, and David York were selected as Festival Competition winners and performed by mass choruses at the Festival. Net revenues from Festival IV exceeded $135,000. These monies were used to establish a new position for GALA Choruses' first Executive Director, grow the endowment fund, and launch several new membership services programs.

1993 - Leadership Conference presented in Minneapolis. Second edition of Commissioned Works of GALA Choruses published. GALA received its first NEA grant for producing a workshop and video on diversity issues at the Minneapolis conference. Commission Matching Grants Program established and $3,000 in grants distributed to choruses engaging in the commissioning process for the first time. Annual operating budget exceeded $86,000.

1994 - Leadership Conference in Charlotte drew a record 320 delegates. GALA's first Executive Director, Kenneth T. Cole, was appointed. GALA Choruses moved its headquarters from Denver to Washington, DC. Ysaye Barnwell, Roger Bourland, David Conte, Joseph Jennings, Erika Luckett, and Gwyneth Walker were commissioned to write new choral works for GALA Festival V (in 1996). Annual operating budget exceeded $148,000. The Leadership Development Fund was renamed the "Geraghty Leadership Fund" in honor of Rich Geraghty.

1995 - Chorus Recordings Marketing Program established to promote recordings by GALA Choruses' member choruses. Membership reached 140 choruses. Leadership Conference presented in St. Louis. First Small Ensemble Festival, featuring master classes by the Flirtations and Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock, presented in Washington, DC. Repertoire Listings for New and Emerging Choruses (in three volumes: men's, women's and mixed-voice choruses) distributed to GALA Choruses' membership. First Compensation Survey distributed. GALA Choruses joined the Cultural Advocacy Group, a network of 60 national arts service associations dedicated to preserving a federal role in arts funding in the United States. Annual operating budget exceeded $253,000. With the advent of Festival V, Board approved 1996 operating budget of more than $821,000.

1996 - Festival V produced in Tampa. Eighty-six choruses, 23 small ensembles, and more than 4,700 delegates register for the eight-day event, which ranks among the largest conventions ever hosted in Tampa. Dr. Maya Angelou delivered the keynote address at the Opening Ceremonies where Harvey Fierstein, Ann Hampton Callaway, BETTY, Romanovsky & Phillips and Holly Near appeared as guest performers. Rodney Eichenberger and Patrica Hennings conducted nine festival choruses. Ysaye Barnwell, Roger Bourland, David Conte, Joseph Jennings, Erika Luckett and Gwyneth Walker were commissioned to write new choral works. Composer Donald Skirvins penned the Festival Anthem "We Sing the Dream." Holly Near and Gary Miller were honored at the first Legacy Awards Dinner. Many choruses performed recently commissioned works. Among the most notable of these were Robert Seeley's "Naked Man," Peter Winkler and Winston Clark's "Out," and Jay Kawarsky's "Prayers for Bobby." Membership reached 155 choruses. Annual operating budget exceeded $1.2 million.

1997 - GALA Choruses hosted the 13th Leadership Conference in Toronto. The 1997 conference was the first to include a Singers Weekend, which drew an additional 145 participants. In July, the second Small Ensemble Festival was presented in Muncie, IN. Seventeen ensembles comprised of 200 singers participated. The first Mid-Winter Managers Meeting was presented in January, and was hailed as an important new program for GALA Choruses. Due to the success of the Managers Meeting, the Board of Directors voted to present the event annually. San Jose was selected as the site of Festival 2000.

1998 – GALA Choruses hosted the Mid-Winter Managers’ Meeting in San Francisco January 9-11. The San Diego Men’s Chorus appeared at the Super Bowl on Jan. 25 in San Diego. A Music Director’s meeting was held in Tucson, AZ Jan 30-Feb 1. Dallas was the site for the Leadership Conference and Singers’ Weekend September 4-7.

1999 – The Mid-Winter Managers’ Meeting was held in New York City on January 8-10 followed by the Music Directors’ Meeting in San Jose on January 29-31. Chicago hosted the Small Ensemble Festival July 2-5. The Leadership Conference and Singers’ Weekend was held in Washington, DC September 2-6.

2000 – Tampa hosted the Mid-Winter Managers’ Meeting January 7-9 followed by the Music Directors’ Meeting in Charlotte January 28-30. Festival 2000 brought 140 performing groups and more than 5,000 singers to San Jose for the largest gay and lesbian choral event in history July 22-29.

2001 – The first combined Music Directors’ and Managers’ Meeting was held in Seattle January 26-27. Louisville hosted the Small Ensemble Festival July 27-29 followed by the Leadership Conference and Singers’ Weekend in Portland August 31-September 3.

2002 – Cincinnati hosted the Music Directors’ and Managers’ Meeting January 25-27. Barbara McCullough Jones was hired as the new Executive Director May 1, 2002. On May 23-27 the Western Regional Festival, “Why We Sing, Our History, Our Legacy” was held in Seattle and Cincinnati hosted the Eastern Regional Festival July 3-7.

2003 – The Music Directors’ and Managers’ Meeting was held in Orlando January 10-12. Minneapolis hosted the Leadership Conference/Singers’ Weekend/Small Ensemble Festival August 29-September 1.

2004 – Montreal hosted the Music Directors’ and Managers’ Meeting January 10-12. Festival VII brought 163 performing groups and over 5,800 delegates to Montreal setting new records for Festival performances and attendance.

2005 – Brad Ward was hired as the new Executive Director in August 2005. Kansas City hosted the Leadership Conference and Singers’ Weekend September 1-4.

2006 – Atlanta hosted a Mixed Chorus Artistic Directors’ Meeting January 19-21. The Annual Conference was held in Miami September 1-4.

2007Robin Godfrey was hired as the new General Manager in February. Denver hosted the 25th Anniversary Leadership Conference October 4-8. 

2008 – The Directors and Managers meeting was held in Coconut Grove, FL on January 4-6 with 45 individuals attending. A new part-time, rotating Artistic Director-in-Residence program was launched to provide artistic support to the member choruses with Dr. Timothy Seelig chosen to serve in that position for 2008-2009. GALA commissioned a DVD of its 25-year history, “Songs of Courage,” by film producer Shawn Northcutt. The resulting video received critical acclaim at Festival 2008 Miami and has been shown at several gay and lesbian film festivals. The first edition of the GALA songbook was produced under the direction of Tim Seelig and a committee of Artistic Directors. Over $18,000 in matching grants from the Dwight Joyner and Michael Murphy Commission Matching Grant Fund were awarded to member choruses. Miami hosted Festival 2008 July 12-19 with 134 groups performing at the spectacular Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The nearly 4,700 attendees rated the Festival a resounding success. Legacy Awards were presented to Dr. Timothy Seelig and Jane Ramseyer Miller and Special Services Awards went to Kevin Gallagher and Maria-Elena Grant.

2009 – The 2009 Managers and Directors Retreat was held in San Antonio on January 8-10 with 40 delegates in attendance. A mixed chorus of 120 singers from GALA choruses in the U.S., Canada, and Australia performed the European debut of “Sing for the Cure” at Various Voices in London in May 2009 under the direction of Dr. Tim Seelig. A mixed chorus of 70 participated in an Alaska cruise with R Family Vacations performing on board under the direction of Dennis Coleman to sold-out crowds. The annual leadership conference was held in Columbus on September 3-6 with 214 delegates in attendance. Conference highlights included presentations by Dr. Ramona Wis and nationally recognized arts marketing expert Alan Brown. In October, the GALA Board of Directors announced that Festival 2012 will be held in Denver. (Link to Festival 2012 Denver)

2010 – The 2010 Managers and Directors Retreat was held in Tucson on January 8-10 with 48 delegates in attendance. Dr. Kathleen McGuire and five singers from the U.S. attended the OUT and LOUD Festival in Auckland, New Zealand April 2-4, 2010 where they were joined by 20 other singers in an American compilation chorus that performed as part of the festival. A video greeting from several U.S. choruses was shown at the opening ceremonies of the Canadian Unison Festival held in Winnipeg on May 21-24, 2010. Several GALA choruses participated in the Sister Singers Network Festival held July 1-4, 2010 in Chicago. The annual leadership conference was held in Dallas Sept. 3-6, 2010 with 158 delegates in attendance. Conference highlights included presentations by Craig Hella Johnson, John Killacky, John Brothers, and Kathy Kingston.

2011 – The 2011 Managers & Directors retreat was held in Denver on January 6-8 with 70 delegates attending. The retreat included a tour of the Denver Performing Arts Complex which was to be the site of Festival 2012. The Annual Leadership Conference was held in Palm Springs on September 22-25 with 152 delegates representing 61 choruses in attendance. Conference highlights included presentations by Sharon Rodning Bash, Bruce Thibodeau, John Jacobsen and Jeffrey Nytch.

2012 – The 2012 Managers & Directors retreat was held in New Orleans on January 13-15 with 52 delegates attending. GALA Choruses, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, held its ninth quadrennial Festival July 7-11, 2012 at the Denver Performing Arts Center. A record-breaking 6,100 singers and delegates attended, representing 112 performing choruses and an additional 48 small ensembles. With nearly round-the-clock performances held simultaneously in Boettcher Concert Hall, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, and the Buell Theater, Festival hosted more than 200 hours of choral performances. Festival 2012 highlights included a classical masterworks sing-along with the Colorado Symphony, a retrospective concert of 30 years of choral commissions, and morning "Coffee Concerts" featuring fully staged performances by selected ensembles. A separate track for GLBT youth choruses welcomed 5 youth choruses and over 100 singers.

2013The 2013 Managers & Directors retreat was held in San Diego on January 18-20 with 78 delegates attending.. The 411 Advisors program was launched in July with Bob Mensel as the Artistic Advisor, Eve Campbell as the Board Advisor, Jeff Heine as the Chorus Manager Advisor and Susan Haugh as the Youth Chorus Advisor.  The Annual Leadership Symposium was held in Atlanta on October 10-13 with 140 delegates representing 60 choruses in attendance.

2014The Managers & Directors Retreat was held in San Antonio on January 17-19 with 59 delegates attending.  In May, the GALA Board of Directors met in Ottawa and attended the Canadian Unison festival where nineteen choirs and over 500 delegates celebrated the fifth quadrennial Unison festival.  In June, GALA participated in the Various Voices Dublin festival where a North American mass choir joined several other U.S. choruses to attend the European LGBT choral festival.  The Annual Leadership Symposium was held in Cleveland on August 7 – 10 which included the first Youth Chorus Leadership Institute with representatives from seven of GALA’s youth choruses attending a fully sponsored day-long set of workshops on youth chorus challenges and opportunities.