The Unique Harmony of the New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus

The group, originally founded in 1991 as a secretly gay choir, takes pride in its openness and diversity.

new jersey gay men's chorus
Christopher Lanni and other members of the chorus perform last May at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park. Photo by James J. Connolly

You don’t need to live in New Jersey to join the New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus. For that matter, you don’t need to be gay. You don’t even need to identify as a man. 

“We’ve always prided ourselves in being open and diverse,” says Tom Myers, a longtime member of the chorus, which recently added female vocalists. 

new jersey gay men's chorus

Artistic director and conductor Sarah Michal.
Photo by James J. Connolly

The chorus couldn’t always be this open about who they were. Founded in 1991 as the Delaware Valley Men’s Chorus, the group started as a secretly gay choir. “We were not out of the closet at the time,” says artistic director and conductor Sarah Michal.

In 1996, the name was changed. Myers, the assistant conductor, joined the following year. “This was an outlet for music, but also a social outlet. [I could] associate with other gay men or LGBT-friendly individuals.”

The 30 or so members range in age from their 20s to their 60s. “Some lived through the AIDS crisis,” says Michal. “They know what that was like to need this community.”

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Michal, a straight woman whose husband sings in the chorus, started leading the group in 2016. She immediately felt welcome. “I remember someone saying, ‘I know you think you’re not one of us, but we’ve adopted you. You’re a part of this community now,’” she says. 

The chorus kicks off its 29th season on December 14 with a holiday concert at Asbury Park’s Trinity Episcopal Church. Tickets are $15–$20 online and $25 at the door. The following day, they’ll perform at Good Shepard Lutheran Church in Somerville. Audiences will hear secular and religious music, classics like “Silver Bells,” and silly tunes like “Boogie Woogie Hanukkah.” Spring concerts will be held in June. 

The group is the only New Jersey member of GALA Choruses, an international association of LGBT choirs. This summer, the New Jersey Gay Men’s Chorus will perform at the GALA festival in Minneapolis.

The group’s repertoire includes the song “One World,” which is “part of the chorus’s DNA,” Michal says.

“That piece is all about optimism,” she says. “We don’t all have to be the same. But we can all live together in harmony.”

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