I was singing with my brothers, I was singing with my friends

Good morning and happy Saturday! Last week I wrote a bit about the Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat and I referred to the guys with whom I had the great pleasure of attending this retreat with as my brothers. That term applies to every guy at every retreat, not just the most recent one, and not just the guys who come back year after year. This week, I promised to write more about my experience with the Albany Gay Men’s Chorus and many of the same words I used to describe my knitting retreat experiences apply to the chorus as well.

A year and a half ago I took a big step outside of my comfort zone when I joined the Albany Gay Men’s Chorus, and wrote about my experience right before the first spring concert I performed in with the chorus. Here we are now a year later and I not only survived that spring concert, I survived the winter concert as well. Now my second spring concert with the chorus is next weekend.

In between the spring and winter concerts there have been many other smaller performances. Sometimes it is the national anthem at a hockey or baseball game, or a selection of songs from our concert for at some other type of event. Last night we sang at the First Friday Concert at the First Presbyterian Church of Albany. Here is one of the songs we performed, and will be performing again in our concert next weekend.

Am I any less nervous? Of course I am. Am I any more musically literate that I was at this time last year? Yes, but not much more. The ability to name those notes on the page on sight still eludes me, but there is a lot more to reading sheet music than naming the notes which I do feel significantly more confident with. I’m getting there with the notes though. Really, I am.

One of the biggest reasons I have continued with this journey despite my struggles with musical illiteracy is how welcoming these guys are and how supported and valued I feel as part of the group. At a recent rehearsal session we were asked to describe, on video, our AGMC experience in one word. I declined to do so mostly because at that point in the day, and for several reasons, I was not very comfortable appearing on camera (and honestly, I never am) but also because one word would simply not have been enough to describe my experience with this amazing group of men.

One word that did come up often from those who did participate is ‘community’ and I am so incredibly grateful to be a part of this chorus and what we contribute not just to the LGBT community but to our local community as a whole, and also for how we support each other within the group as well. At the last couple of men’s knitting retreats I asked the guys who had been to multiple retreats to think about what it was about their firs time experience that made them want to come back, and I asked them to do their best to help make that part of the experience for our first timers. I have taken the same appproach with new members of the chorus who have joined us since my first concert cycle. I want them to feel as welcome and supported as I was made to feel my first time, and I hope they do the same with the new chorus member who come after them.

Learning the music and how to perform it is hard work, but these guys make it genuinely fun. Do I still get nervous before we perform? Of course! Do I still question my competence and ability to perform well what we spent the last six months working on? Of course! But my confidence has outgrown my nervousness and fear and that is all thanks to this amazing group of men that I am still very proud to call my brothers.

Come see us next Saturday night at the Massry Center for Performing Arts. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

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