Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus goes crazy for the ’80s

CGMC performers. Photo: Courtesy G. Thomas Ward Photography.

The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus premiered its latest musical endeavor, “That ’80s Show” at Francis W. Parker School Friday, May 11.

“It’s fun, you’ll reminisce about the ’80s, you’ll learn — if you weren’t around in the ’80s — what was so crazy about those ’80s,” said General Manager of the chorus, Arnie Cuarenta.

The show features musical montages of some of the highlights of the decade’s music from TV, movies and other top hits, accompanied by videos, lively skits and satires performed by the men and women of the chorus.

“What people have come to expect from CGMC now is the flash and the fun of the show, but they also get some beautiful singing,” said Rick Aiello, a 15-year veteran of the chorus.

CGMC is a group of singers and performers which includes men, women and transgender individuals whose mission it is to entertain, inspire, motivate and comfort through music.

“Music appeals to a broader audience, not just a gay audience, so it’s an opportunity to educate our audience on what’s going on,” said Cuarenta.

The history of CGMC, according to Cuarenta, an 11-year member, starts with a story of defiance. In 1983, The Gay and Lesbian Choral Association hosted a convention in New York City to sing at Rockefeller Center. Members of the Windy City Gay Chorus, wanted to attend but the board refused.

“[They told them] If you want to go, make your own chorus,” said Cuarenta. “They used that as the starting point to create the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus.”

The founding members of CGMC breaking away from the group ultimately caused a rivalry between the groups.

“Windy City was known as the legitimate chorus who knew how to sing,” he said. “And we were the chorus who shouted show tunes in unison.”

Over time, the rivalry dissolved and now the choruses have even performed together, including a concert that is scheduled for this year.

Photo: Courtesy G. Thomas Ward Photography.

Usually referred to as “the fun chorus,” brining a mix of song and performance for which they become known for, it was the addition of Patrick Sinozich as artistic director almost 15 years ago, that marked a change in the vision of the group.

“What Patrick tried to do was bring in different styles of music,” said Aiello. “In addition to show tunes and pop classic standards, we would bring in more current songs classical songs, a little mix of everything and try to give songs a little more meaning.”

The improved musicality of the group is exemplified every four years when the group travels to GALA Festival in Denver, where choirs from all over the country gather to share their talent through performances, for which CGMC has always served as one of the opening acts.

“It used to be a lot of stand and sing choral music, but now you’ll see more dancing,” Cuarenta said. “I’m not saying it was us, but really.”

What is now a staple of the gay choruses of Chicago — the home of three active choral groups — is still growing and always looking for new members. While Cuarenta is leaving the group, he had some advice to those who were longing to get involved.

“You have to have fun, if you’re not having fun, don’t do it,” he said. “This chorus has a life beyond the stage, it’s a family and that’s why you join a chorus, it’s not just to sing.”

CGMC will be taking their show to the Elmhurt College on Saturday, for more information visit www.cgmc.org.