One Voice chorus celebrates 25 years

South Charlotte Weekly

Sotto Voce is an auditioned ensemble branch of One Voice, which is all-inclusive and doesn’t require auditions. Photo courtesy of One Voice

One Voice, a non-profit LGBT community choral group, continues to build on its mission to bring acceptance and understanding for the LGBT community through music.

“Music transcends – everybody loves music and the message in that music,” said Dan Cadle, president of One Voice.

Cadle said the group, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, continues to make an impact in the greater Charlotte community – something it has aimed to do since its formation in 1990.

Dan Kirsch, a former member of the Gay Men’s Chorus in Philadelphia, formed the group as the city’s first chorus dedicated to lesbian and gay people. Cadle joined in 1994 and said he was immediately impressed by the level of talent and leadership, but group members were often cautious about “coming out” to the larger community.

“People were very cautious and would only have their first names or initials printed (media and advertisements),” he said. “We had school teachers and professional people and people who were involved in regular churches that had real fears about job security and backlash.”

Despite the concern, several progressive churches and many community members regularly supported One Voice. Cadle mentioned how Myers Park Baptist and Holy Trinity Lutheran churches became normal practice and performance locations. He also said as word grew about the group’s talent, community members who were not directly involved with the group – such as friends and family members – became regular patrons at performances.

“When they come and see faces that they (community attendants) may or may not recognize – some people fit stereotypes and some don’t,” Cadle said. “It removes the stigma of the unknown.”

The group grew audience appeal while simultaneously doubling in membership. Since it’s inception, Cadle said the group also has grown to rally around bisexual and transgender people, but is quick to point out there’s still room for growth.

“We cannot talk about LGBT issues without recognizing the disheartening challenges faced by the transgender community, especially with the two recent local suicides,” he said. “We ‘ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”

One Voice currently has around 70 members with 17 identified as straight ally members, meaning they don’t belong to the LGBT community. Cadle said this has led to the personal transformation of many LGBT members who battled with their own homophobia. He said when someone who is straight stands and sings with an LGBT-labeled group and does not fear being labeled themselves, it encourages those who identify as LGBT to release their fears about discrimination and have the courage to be proud of themselves.

“A lot of the LGBT community want instant acceptance,” he said, “but it took us so long to accept ourselves. It takes time for it to sink in.

“We are always constantly struggling to be better.”

Cadle said One Voice also provides community outreach on LGBT issues. The nonprofit partnered with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library in the past to give a concert rendition of the children’s book, “Oliver Button is a Sissy,” as well as handing out free copies of the book to attending families. The book and concert addressed bullying, a prominent challenge for LGBT community members and children.

Cadle also mentioned partnerships with Urban Ministries and Time Out Youth, creating awareness through a documentary about the large LGBT homeless population – specifically youth and young adults who’ve been abandoned by family and friends because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, he said.

To celebrate 25 years, One Voice is preparing for its final concert of the season – a three-night performance of “Hollywood Squares: The Speakeasy Edition.” Performances take place Thursday through Saturday, June 18 through 20 at 8 p.m. at the Charlotte Ballet, located at 701 N. Tryon St. in uptown Charlotte.

Cadle said the show follows the plot of the famous television game show “Hollywood Squares,” featuring Drag Queen Barbara Burning Bush as the talk show host. Two audience members are selected as contestants who work to answer questions about the performance via business-sponsored squares, while also aiming to win the game show by getting a row of X’s or O’s. In between a contestant question and answer session, One Voice chorus and its ensemble group, Sotto Voce, will perform various songs from the prohibition era.

Cadle boasted the performance would be filled with costume changes, featuring suspenders, suits and flapper dresses, along with choreography and audience participation.

Gerald Gurss, artistic director of One Voice for seven years, said the prohibition era lends itself to an array of musical genres such as Broadway, country and jazz. Some examples of songs that will be performed include: “Hard Knock Life” from “Annie,” Duke Ellington and Beyonce Knowles mashup “It Don’t Mean a Thing/Single Ladies,” “Love is Here to Stay” by Gershwin and “Cell Block Tango” from “Chicago.”

Gurss feels One Voice “pioneers understanding for LGBT people” by finding commonalities through music.

“Our chorus is young, old, black, white, gay, straight, transgender, religious, secular, novice and professional,” he said. “It’s more than an excellent choral organization – it’s family.”

Visit One Voice at http://www.onevoicechorus.com to learn more about the group and purchase tickets for upcoming performances.

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