GALA Choruses Is Formed Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Leaders from twelve lesbian, gay, and mixed-gender choruses gathered to form GALA Performing Arts Groups, which soon became the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, or GALA Choruses. The organization includes more than two hundred member choruses from around the world with more than ten thousand singers.

Summary of Event

During the course of the early and mid-1970’s, many largely lesbian-identified feminist choruses developed around the United States, followed by gay-identified men’s choruses and lesbian and gay mixed-gender choruses in the late 1970’s. The “grandmother” chorus, Anna Crusis, which is still in existence, formed in Philadelphia in 1975. It was followed by Calliope in Minneapolis and the Los Angeles Community Women’s Chorus in 1976. The Stonewall Chorale in New York, which began in December of 1977 as the Gotham Male Chorus, changed its name when women joined in 1979. Both Artemis Singers in Chicago and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus formed in 1978, followed in 1979 by Windy City Gay Chorus, Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Seattle Men’s Chorus, and the Montrose Singers, which later became the Gay Men’s Chorus of Houston. [kw]GALA Choruses Is Formed (1981-1982) [kw]Choruses Is Formed, GALA (1981-1982) GALA Choruses Music;choral Choral movement Arts;performing [c]Arts;1981-1982: GALA Choruses Is Formed[1440] [c]Organizations and institutions;1981-1982: GALA Choruses Is Formed[1440] Davidson, Jay Miller, Gary

West Coast Singers, based in Los Angeles, California, is the third oldest lesbian and gay mixed-gender chorus in the United States. It was formed in 1983.

(Courtesy, West Coast Singers)

Even though these choruses developed locally, like so many other community choruses they looked to larger organizations for support. They found little interest in their concerns, however, from conservative organizations such as the American Choral Directors Association. In the interest of developing their own support networks, directors, managers, and members from lesbian and gay choruses and bands across the country developed newsletters, shared music ideas, and sometimes even sent each other flowers for opening nights. In some of the larger cities, lesbian and gay performing arts umbrella organizations, such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Performing Arts and Chicago’s Toddlin’ Town Performing Arts, had developed to combine resources for choruses, bands, and theater groups.

In early 1981, concurrent with the development of the feminist Sister Singers Network, Sister Singers Network members of the Windy City Gay Chorus invited directors and managers of gay and lesbian choruses and bands to Chicago for a weekend to exchange ideas about forming an organization at the national level. Participants from twelve choruses met in Chicago in May, 1981, the first meeting in which the idea for the association was discussed. The Gay and Lesbian Association of Performing Arts Groups was formed out of this meeting, becoming the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA) in 1982.

The group immediately set several goals, including, one, to produce a large choral festival for September, 1983, in New York City, a festival eventually named Come Out And Sing Together (COAST). Two, in preparation for the larger festival, the group produced a smaller regional festival in San Francisco in the summer of 1982, called the West Coast Choral Festival, held in conjunction with the first-planned Gay Games. Three, the group planned another meeting of the managers and directors in San Francisco during the 1982 West Coast Choral Festival.

For this 1982 meeting in San Francisco, bands and other performing arts groups were again invited, but for the second time only choruses showed up. Out of this meeting came three more decisions. The group agreed to change its name from GALA Performing Arts to GALA Choruses; it was to seek incorporation as a tax-exempt organization based in California; and it decided to meet once again in New York, after the COAST Festival, to elect its first board of directors.

The Stonewall Chorale opened the first national GALA festival in 1983 at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. A total of fourteen choruses performed for each other in an atmosphere of mutual support, a quality that sets GALA choral festivals apart from others, which are largely focused on competition. This approach, which emphasizes affirmation, respect, support, and networking over judgment, has created, in the words of a GALA founding member, Dennis Coleman, “a tremendous synergy” that has played a role in the organization’s rapid and consistent growth. The LGBT choral movement remains, arguably, one of the largest components of the LGBT movement in the world.

GALA sponsored festivals every three years until 1992, when the interval between festivals was changed to four years; leadership conferences and regional festival would be held between festivals. From the original 14 choruses that sang in the first festival, the GALA festival in 2004 in Montreal had 163 choruses and 5,800 registered delegates from around the world, but mostly from North America. The week-long festival included international premiere performances of youth and transgender choruses and stand-up comedy with Lily Tomlin.


GALA’s member choruses, which now number more than two hundred, with more than ten thousand singers, continues to support artistic and organizational development of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender choruses, which are collectively changing the face of choral music through commissioning and performing new works. Through original commissions of new choral works, new arrangements of everything from classical to popular tunes, and by performing some songs with a twist—some would argue, “queering” them—the LGBT choral movement has developed a repertoire of popular “anthems” that include “We Are Everywhere,” “Everything Possible,” and “Love Worth Fighting For.”

According to GALA’s Web site, “more than 600,000 individuals purchase tickets to one or more member concerts per year and the combined audiences of member choruses through community appearances and television and radio broadcasts exceeds 5,000,000 individuals. Among the television networks that have aired performances of GALA Choruses members are ABC, BBC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and PBS.”

GALA’s member choruses have shared the stage with the likes of Maya Angelou, Natalie Cole, Michael Fienstein, Jerry Hadley, Marilyn Horne, Bobby McFerrin, Bette Midler, Liza Minelli, Mark Morris, Holly Near, Bernadette Peters, Roberta Peters, Mary Redhouse, Diane Schuur, and Frederica von Stade, and have performed for presidents, queens, and other leaders of state at major national events and in major venues, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Carnegie Hall in New York City, Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Boston Symphony Hall, and symphony halls in San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, and Denver.

By engaging a traditionally conservative art form, LGBT choruses produce a social presence that resists the stereotypes of LGBT people as solely antisocial, deviant, or hypersexualized. The 2008 GALA festival is planned for Miami, Florida. GALA Choruses Music;choral Choral movement Arts;performing

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brett, Phillip, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas. Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology. New York: Routledge, 1994.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gordon, Eric. “GALA: The Lesbian and Gay Community of Song.” Choral Journal 30, no. 9 (1990): 25-32.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hadleigh, Boze. Sing Out! Gays and Lesbians in the Music World. New York: Barricade Books, 1998.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McLaren, Jay. An Encyclopaedia of Gay and Lesbian Recordings: An Index of Published Recordings of Music and Speech Expressing Themes Relevant to Gay Men and Lesbians. Limited ed. Amsterdam: Author, 1992.

1973: Olivia Records Is Founded

September, 1975: Anna Crusis Women’s Choir Is Formed

August 20-22, 1976: Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival Holds Its First Gathering

June 6-June 20, 1981: San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus Concert Tour

December 8, 1981: New York City Gay Men’s Chorus Performs at Carnegie Hall

1992-2002: Celebrity Lesbians Come Out

Categories: History