The novel coronavirus has swept the nation clean of any summer 2020 plans, and with 2020 Pride events being canceled, too, many local queer entertainment groups in Southeast Michigan are now out of work and are struggling to find ways to still perform virtually. With ordinary schedules out of synch and performances suspended, several local chorus groups are also doing everything they can do to keep a close-knit community.
Out Loud Chorus
Between The Lines caught up with Darin DeWeese, artistic director of Out Loud Chorus, to see how the Washtenaw County-based LGBTQ group has made adjustments for its summer season. As director, DeWeese feels he also has the responsibility of keeping the community as tightknit as possible. As of now, members of Out Loud are still getting together virtually, but instead of rehearsals together, they have been reuniting for various trivia nights, karaoke and online vocal lessons to stay in touch. DeWeese explained that since the events Out Loud had planned are getting canceled, there is no reason to practice every day.
The cancelation of summer 2020’s pride events, as well as the group’s two-night May concert series at the University of Michigan, comes on the 25th anniversary of the group’s formation. Normally, Out Loud has upwards of five events throughout the summer, but for now, the focus is on its winter series and a virtual variety show for the 2020 online Ypsilanti pride. Auditions for new members will begin in September.
Sing Out Detroit
Linda Brincat, one of the original four founders of local LGBT chorus Sing Out Detroit, is continuing to meet with her fellow members of Sing Out through online meetings. Originally, the group had planned to rehearse weekly through virtual meetings, but it soon switched to individual practices. Now instead of a normal schedule, members use the time to keep in touch with one another through cocktail hours. Brincat highlighted how it was so important for the chorus group to keep in touch with one another, as many members join Sing Out solely to be connected with others part of the queer community.
The group is cautiously optimistic that its June concert can be rescheduled for later this summer, but it is planning to make more virtual concerts in the months ahead. Since the group’s establishment by Brincat and three friends in July of 2008, Sing Out has secured a spot on the Motor City Pride stage every year, and summer 2020 would have been their 11th performance. To support Sing Out through this time, those interested can visit its website, make donations or become a corporate sponsor.
Prism Men’s Chorus
Mark Ortwine is the chairman of Prism Men’s Chorus. Ortwine spoke with sadness as said that the nonprofit group has canceled all of its events for the rest of the year, including sold-out August and December concert series. This summer, Prism planned to have performances at Motor City and Ferndale Prides, but those were canceled as well. In four years of being an established chorus group, Prism has performed with vocal powerhouses like Demi Lovato and Patti LuPone, while also maintaining various outreach programs that have given the chorus the official title of a nonprofit corporation. At each rehearsal, members would bring in cans of food and donate them to local food pantries, but since practices have gone virtual, they are looking for other ways to still help the shelters.
However, since it is a nonprofit, Prism is dependent upon steady concerts to pay expenses. Due to the shortage of funds, the group has canceled all of their subscriptions and cut out all unnecessary expenses — everything from storage units to online advertisements. Despite the odds being stacked against the group, Ortwine has been trying to find the silver lining in COVID-19-induced quarantine. He said it’s a good time to fix operational aspects of the group that have been on hold for a while. To make a donation or contact the group, supporters can visit website prism-chorus.org.
Detroit Together Men’s Chorus
Artistic Director of Detroit Together Men’s Chorus Brian Londrow said that the group is planning for virtual rehearsals and ways for the group to stay connected with each other. Like most other groups, their concert planned for the end of May was canceled, as well as a performance at the Freep Film Festival, which sponsored the new documentary, “America You Kill Me,” surrounding the life of Detroit LGBT activist Jeffrey Montgomery. The group’s next steps are being deliberated via a board meeting this week, but Londrow said it is realistic that Detroit Together will be planning virtual concerts and other creative ways to connect with its audience. Londrow explained that for Detroit Men’s Chorus the most important goal is to be a symbol for Pride and to be there for their fellow members of the LGBTQ community — whether they are physically present at a Pride festival or not.
Peter Morse and Ben Boerkoel are both heads of the LanSINGout Chorus. The group is currently not doing virtual rehearsals as many members do not have the correct software to do so. This means that, for the time being, LanSINGout has chosen not to plan any online concerts. However, members are still meeting virtually to get caught up with one another. The entire spring schedule has been indefinitely postponed, including a fundraiser for the Chorus and another group to attend the chorus-oriented GALA Festival in Minneapolis, which is held once every four years. The festival has been postponed until next summer. Their spring concert that was supposed to be held the weekend of May 8 has been scheduled for next spring. Morse and Boerkoel’s main priority is letting the chorus’ audience know that there are still plans in motion for a strong winter season.