Out And Proud

Out And Proud

When Jeff Walker was growing up in Warsaw, Mo. — a town of about 2,000 about an hour and a half north of Springfield — there were no role models for him. He knew he was gay, but the only gay men he knew were “flamboyant and ultra-feminine — nothing I wanted to identify with.”

That’s not what inspired Walker to found a gay men’s chorus, first in Springfield and now in Northwest Arkansas. But providing a look at the diversity of the 30 singers in the chorus is one of his goals.

“I want it to grow up to serve two functions,” he says of the Northwest Arkansas Men’s Chorus, debuting Dec. 2 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. “One is to be a well-respected arts organization within the Northwest Arkansas arts community. Mainly, though, I want it to follow its mission statement, to build community and celebrate diversity through the power of music.”

Walker says concerts — two a year, at least for this season — are planned to take popular or traditional music and present it in a way that gets the audience thinking. By way of example, he explains that the Springfield chorus partnered with a homeless center for LGBT youth, and “we took stories from the youth and set them to visuals while we were singing songs from ‘Les Mis,’ putting a different light on ‘bringing them home.’ Most of the time it will be music you’re familiar with but in a different mindset.”

For the first concert, Walker and the chorus’ director, Ryan Fox, chose both familiar and less traditional holiday pieces to introduce “Who We Are.” “This is our identity concert.” To that, Walker adds that being gay is not a requirement for membership — and not all of the current members are. “The only requirement is that you’re not tone-deaf,” he says with a chuckle. “We truly are a community chorus. We want everyone to join us. Your voice just has to fit in the tenor/bass range — and if you’re female and can do that, you’re more than welcome, too.”

Donors came together to create a scholarship for singers who can’t pay the $30 a year dues — used for printed music — or perhaps can’t afford concert attire.

“One is from Fort Smith,” Walker says proudly. “And we have two members who drive from Fort Smith to rehearse! We are the state’s only out and proud chorus.”



‘Who We Are’

Winter Concert

WHEN — 6 p.m. Dec. 2

WHERE — Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 2925 Old Missouri Road in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — nwamenschorus.org

Categories: 'Tis the Season, Features