The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus and the California Desert Chorale are both preparing for their new seasons—and they’re both looking for new members to join in the fun.
At 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 25, at the Church of St. Paul in the Desert in Palm Springs, the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus (www.psgmc.com) will be holding auditions. During a recent phone interview, artistic director Doug Wilson explained the audition process.
“What I’m looking for are people who can match pitch,” Wilson said. “They can come in and sing a song that they prepared, something that they have worked on before, or they can sing a simple song like ‘My Country ’Tis of Thee’ or ‘Happy Birthday.’ I’ll take them through a couple of scales just to see if they can match pitch, and that’s all I need to know. If they can match pitch, we bring them into the chorus.”
Upcoming productions include a 30-minute performance at Palm Springs Pride in November, and holiday concerts in December. What’s expected of members once they are accepted into the chorus?
“You need to come to as many of the rehearsals as you possibly can,” Wilson said. “We understand there are issues sometimes related to family and jobs, and we do the best we can to work that out. Rehearsals are on Tuesday nights from 7 to 10 p.m., and every now and then, we’ll have a Saturday rehearsal to touch people up if they’ve missed rehearsals. They also have to memorize music; it does take some practice outside of the rehearsal time to memorize music, but we provide rehearsal tracks and do as much as we can to get people through that process. We also have $120 a year in member dues, and that helps for the costs of the music and things that also come up in the course of time. If you can’t pay that $120, we’ll work with you.”
Wilson said that the chorus, in some ways, is like a family.
“The chorus is a great bunch of guys to work with,” he said. “We call our audition night ‘Join Our Family,’ because we really consider each other our friends and family. We have social activities like potluck dinners. We have dinners where our board serves all the members of the chorus, and we have a snack break at all of our rehearsals to meet other guys and become part of the family. Some of them go out and do things together, and they become really good friends.”
Meanwhile, the California Desert Chorale will be holding auditions at 7 p.m., Monday, Aug. 31, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Palm Desert. While the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus is for, as the name says, gay men, the California Desert Chorale is open to both men and women. During a recent interview, artistic director Tim Bruneau explained how the 22-year-old chorus operates.
“About a third of the (members of the) California Desert Chorale are working professional singers,” Bruneau said. “The others are just talented amateurs, but it’s an in-depth experience, and people want to work hard to make it happen. … We’re going into a full concert season with a holiday concert series in December, a big gala concert in February, and concert performance in April. Everything we do, we do with a chamber orchestra of about 18 players, and do a great variety of music.”
In the spring, the California Desert Chorale will be doing a concert called Mozart, Motown, and My Way, a combination of classical music, R&B music from Motown performers, and some Sinatra songs.
Bruneau said anyone who is interested should visit the California Desert Chorale’s website at www.californiadesertchorale.org, where there is a detailed list of what’s required at the auditions. “It involves performing a memorized solo piece, reading over the pieces they submit to sing at the audition, pitch memory exercises, and some repetition of foreign languages, because we sing a number of languages. It’s good to see if people have the ability to mimic a language even if they’re not able to speak it.”
There are a lot of requirements for members, including a commitment to rehearsals.
“We have Monday evening rehearsals 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. in September through April. We also have two Saturday morning rehearsals during the September through December months, and then two more in January through April. I maintain a policy: If someone misses more than two rehearsals, they are not allowed to sing in the concerts. I don’t stray from that too often; our program is too complex.
“We’re very familial. Part of our mission statement is diverse membership and diverse audiences. We’re not a gay organization or a straight organization, but a diverse organization. We have members ranging from 18 to 90. It’s the valley’s community choral organization, and it really represents a broad section of the community in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. It’s a wonderful mix of human beings and very welcoming. We have a buddy system where every new member is taken under the wing of someone else and welcomed into the fold that way, and we have social gatherings where the members get to know each other better. It’s rigorous and demanding, but very friendly and welcoming.”