Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota Invites New Singers to Fall Rehearsals

| August 9, 2017

In a community full of arts organizations, Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota, might not be a name you know, though the group is hoping to change that soon. Beginning as the Gulf Coast Men’s Choir two decades ago, the group has evolved, yet continues to be a place where LGBTQ singers find comradery and community. Today, the group welcomes singers of every sexual orientation, gender identity, race and religion.

 “We’re very excited about celebrating our 20th anniversary in 2018 and we’re hoping to welcome a lot of new singers this season,” said Joan Faucher, Diversity’s president.

Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota will perform December 9 and 10 at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Palmer Ranch. Spring concert dates are tentatively set for May 4 – 6, 2018, with locations to be announced. In addition, Diversity expects to announce a special 20th anniversary concert date soon.

Other singing opportunities with Diversity include Sarasota and Manatee Pride events; Christmas caroling at local senior/assisted living centers; and a September 2018 LGBT chorus cruise with performances in Cape Canaveral and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

According to Faucher, some of the group’s members have been involved in choral singing throughout their lives, while others have no musical training. “We have no formal auditions, just a quick meeting with our artistic director to determine what voice part is best for each person.” While the ability to read music is helpful, Faucher says that it isn’t required. “We provide CDs of the music to every singer, and the learning tracks can also be downloaded onto your computer, phone or iPad. This makes it so much easier to learn your individual voice part.”

Many members of the group say that singing with Diversity is the bright spot in their week.  Joanie Grossman, a 72-year-old retired teacher, enjoys the chorus enough that she makes a two-hour drive roundtrip from Sun City each week for rehearsals. “Singing lifts my spirits in these times of conflict and negative news. It makes me feel happy and alive,” said Grossman.

Bern Cattanach, a former mental health counselor, echoes that sentiment and says that singing with Diversity has both challenged her and given her confidence. “Being part of Diversity gives me the opportunity to do something that I love, but never thought I could do: singing in a group that sounds really good! I’ve met wonderful folks from every walk of life you could imagine. I’m also learning to read music.”

New singers can expect to find the welcome mat rolled out for them, with a mentor/buddy available to answer questions and help meet other chorus members. Fran Newman, who joined the group last January, appreciated that approach. “I joined because I thought I’d like to try to sing harmony.  From the first night, I found lots of people trying to make me feel comfortable – even when I mouthed part of a song so I wouldn’t hit the wrong note. I really felt accepted and welcomed.” 

For some members, the group’s emphasis on inclusion and acceptance in a more global/social sense is just as important as the musical experience. “I’ve sung with several groups in my life, but my time with Diversity has been the most rewarding,” said Ginny Hitchcock, “I believe in our mission of communicating hope, equality and love through beautiful music. And I value the friendships I’ve made with interesting people who share my idealistic view of the world.” 

Marc Erwin, a tenor with a never-ending smile, expressed it this way, “It’s a chance to show the world how people from different backgrounds, races and sexual orientations can come together cooperatively to do something special.”

Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota is led by new interim artistic director, Bruce Ensinger, who has a distinguished history as a music educator and Fulbright Scholar. A soft-spoken man who is passionate about choral music, Ensinger understands the meaning that music can bring to people’s lives. “Singing is a very personal experience and singing with an ensemble, blending your voice with others, working toward the same goal, can be a life-changing experience,” he said.

Love to Sing?

Come to a Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota rehearsal. Rehearsals for the December performances begin on August 31 and are held every Thursday night beginning at 7 p.m. at St. Andrew United Church of Christ, 6908 S. Beneva Rd., Sarasota. Email contact@diversitysarasota.org or leave a message at 888-550-6279 for more information. You can also check out Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota on Facebook or at DiversitySarasota.org.

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