Desert Voices

By Megan Wadding, December 2015 Issue.

Desert Voices, Tucson’s first LGBTQ Chorus, is holding its annual holiday show over two days at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson.

With the theme of “A Holiday Wishlist,” this show will kick off the chorus’ 27th season.

“[This] is a musical representation of all the things our singers and our community would love to have this holiday season,” explained Shawn Cullen (pictured), Desert Voices artistic director and conductor. “Each song has a message of hope, love and laughter.”

According to Kelly Kurtz, president of the board of directors, the show will feature traditional Christmas music as well as an assortment of non-holiday songs.

“There’s going to be very whimsical numbers, as well as beautiful choral music. Our audiences will be very entertained with the different styles of music,” Kurtz said. “We do a lot of fun, silly numbers so our audiences can expect to hear some of the typical kind of fare, too … It’s going to be really exciting at this holiday show.”

The chorus begins preparations, including song selection and rehearsals, in the summer months.

“We focus on our outreach music alongside our performance selections for the holiday when it is still very much over 100 degrees,” Cullen said.

During this time, Cullen welcomes input from the other chorus members.

“[Cullen] does a lot of the research himself and thinks about the theme and what numbers will fit together,” Kurtz said. “There’s always something like a storyline that ties the show all together.”

According to Cullen, the musical make-up of the cast, how many new singers will be performing and what the theme is, all contribute to the songs that make the final cut for the show.

“[The songs] change each season – sometimes by the semester – as Desert Voices continues to grow in membership and skill,” Cullen said, adding that the chorus members are a wide range of ages, ethnic backgrounds and levels of singing experience.

“Some [members] have degrees in music and some just really liked to sing in their shower and want to be a part of a chorus,” Kurtz explained.

According to Kurtz, who was one of the original members of the chorus when it got its start back in 1988 as the very first LGBTQ chorus in Tucson, the chorus has blossomed over the years.

“We had about 15 members [in 1988. We were] very tiny and new to Tucson,” Kurtz said. “Over the years, our membership has grown. Now we’re seeing about 60 members.”

The Desert Voices mission statement is centered on fostering community through song. According to Kurtz, they wanted the chorus to reflect that in every way, including the orientations of the members of the chorus.

“We have representation from the lesbian, gay and transgender community, as well as straight allies – we actually have quite a few straight allies,” Kurtz said. “We wanted to build a chorus that is representative of the community in which we live, and our chorus reflects that.”

Following the Sunday night performance, the chorus will host a raffle drawing for two roundtrip tickets from any Southwest Airlines city to New York City as well as three nights at a Times Square hotel and admission to two Broadway musicals.

Proceeds from the show and raffle will fund the chorus’ travel to the GALA Festival in Denver next July.

“We’re also going to be collaborating with several other choruses for performances while we’re [in Denver],” Kurtz said. “This raffle fundraiser is about making sure the chorus can do those things.”

Desert Voices will also present “Under The Big Top,” a cabaret, dinner and silent auction Feb. 27, 2016, and a performance entitled “Celebrating the Spectrum” June 12, 2016.

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