Out Loud Chorus will return to live performance with a show at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 5 at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. The show, titled Out of the Closet, will be the chorus’s first live show since before the pandemic began.
Selections to be performed in the show include many LGBTQ favorites, such as Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out,” KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes,” Madonna’s “Vogue,” and a medley from the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots.” Other selections include Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors,” Chely Wright’s “Sea of Cowboy Hats” and “My Strongest Suit” from “Aida.”
“We wanted something fun that wasn’t traditional choral repertoire,” Darin DeWeese, Out Loud’s artistic director, said while explaining the show’s set list. “Something that would fully entertain people without requiring their undivided attention that they would normally give us in an auditorium. Everything was selected with fun, vigor and enthusiastic audience response in mind. Plus, who doesn’t love a bunch of songs about clothes coming Out of the Closet?”
DeWeese said preparations for the show have been “very exciting and stressful all at the same time. It’s our first outdoor-only full concert so that presents a whole different set of technical challenges. We have to deal with weather, interruptions in the Farmers Market from atmospheric noises and much more variability. But the idea of making music as a full ensemble together is unbelievably exciting! And the opportunity to share our music with our fans and audience again will be absolutely profound.”
But just because live shows were canceled due to COVID-19 doesn’t mean that the Out Loud Chorus hasn’t been busy. Tim Hamann is an Out Loud board member. He said that surviving has been “no small feat” for a group with ” a budget in the 35K/year range,” but Chorus members have worked to save the group despite difficulties.
“We are volunteer-led and have struggled immensely with maintaining operations,” Hamann said. “We never fully shut down including virtual rehearsal, pre-recorded performances and an honest-to-goodness livestream in January that was a huge success with over 400 people watching us live.”
DeWeese said that since the start of the pandemic, Out Loud has had to embrace “huge uncertainty in planning and not knowing what revenue would come in with these new approaches we’ve tried like livestreaming and outdoor concerts. It has meant our production committee had to pick up a whole new set of tools dealing with technology and online performing in a way we never had to. This meant a lot more research and input from organizations like GALA to guide us.
“There were many times when throwing in the towel seemed preferable to this struggle and dealing with the anxiety the chorus members felt about sticking it out,” DeWeese continued. “Most choirs simply shutdown for the past year and that often seemed like a wise choice when we went through the most challenging times, but our commitment to our members meant that we would press ourselves forward and as a result, we have tapped into a whole new range of audience we are able to meet and share our story with virtually.”
Still, it will be a leaner Out Loud performing at the Farmer’s Market than most have seen.
“We are only half the size of where we were in March 2020,” said Hamman. “We have 45 singers who plan to sing. But it will be a full show with local actor Dayne G. as master of ceremonies and our band on stage with us.”
And, pandemic cooperating, it’s just the start of great things to come from the chorus.
“Optimistically, we are hoping to be back in person again this fall and create a more typical concert series for the upcoming year,” said DeWeese. “Time will tell what we are able to do and not do, but our current plan is to look more normal by the fall season.”
The upcoming Farmer’s Market show is free. There will be a text-to-donate option for those who wish to contribute to the Chorus. The event will also be livestreamed. Out Loud Chorus is a mixed LGBTQ+ choir based in Washtenaw County. This means the choir is open to anyone who would like to join. For more information, visit olconline.org.